As someone actively raised with an old-school sense of values and principles, I often heard the old saying from my father, “There’s a reason why you have two ears and one mouth. You should be listening twice as much as you’re speaking.” As a small child, I always found the adage to sound silly and didn’t quite understand it. But as I grew up, the saying became more and more clear and I realized the unbelievable potential that came with listening to others instead of simply waiting your turn to talk. 

However, it wasn’t until I read Dale Carnegie’s ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ that I really began to implement this strategy of listening attentively in my personal and professional life. The results? People told me they loved my company, they loved talking with me, and I always left them feeling optimistic about our interactions. However, I knew better—I hadn’t done anything other than shut up and let them talk about the things that mattered most to them. 

So, how does this concept apply to the drilling industry specifically? Well, it’s simple. As a drilling contractor, leader, or business owner, your ability to listen and determine the needs of your customers and team is crucial. It can even be the difference between a job and a lost opportunity. Although, just as with anything in life, learning to listen takes time and a willingness to grow as a person. But, for those who do take the time and grow as leaders and individuals, the outcome far surpasses the effort in every way imaginable. 

“To be interesting, be interested”

One of the first lessons I learned from the late great Dale Carnegie was to let people talk. Growing up, I often found myself waiting for my turn to say something and thinking about all the things I wanted to say. As a result, I rarely truly heard what others were saying to me. This affected me greatly in my first job as a saleswoman. At just 14 years old, I snagged a relatively desirable sales position at a local bike shop and found myself with some of the worst sales in the shop. It all came down to my need to talk instead of listen. When a person came in and began to tell me about how they were getting into road cycling, I would immediately jump in and start telling them about all of our bikes, our gear, and my experience as a cyclist myself. By the time I was through, they would simply walk away to look through the store on their own, and I’d lost a sale. 

Instead, if I had only listened, I would have heard that they had a bike or had the equipment and were truly looking for a cruiser bike for the weekends or a new pair of bike shorts that didn’t hurt for long rides. This is the missed opportunity that comes with never listening to others during sales and while networking and collaborating. As Dale Carnegie once stated, “Talk to someone about themselves and they'll listen for hours.”

The other lesson I learned from Carnegie was to become interested in others sincerely and wholly. Not only did this benefit me as an interviewer and salesperson, but it also benefitted my personal life as a friend and spouse. One of my favorite quotes from the business coach parrots this sentiment, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” In drilling, your ability to connect with your team, peers, customers, and the other connected industries is crucial. However, far too often, this connection is nothing more than superficial business pleasantries. Why? Why not communicate with these people from a sincere and empathetic position that focuses on who they are and what they need? This is the key to greater success and long-term connections across the field. 

Fishing for People

Have you ever called a company completely disgruntled, only to be immediately calmed by an escalations specialist? They’re truly the experts at the concept of listening and determining what you need. After all, it’s what they literally do for a living. So, what can we learn from these specialists in a very different field from our own? 

Firstly, we can learn how to ‘fish for people.’ As Carnegie shares, “Personally, I am very fond of strawberries and cream, but I have found that for some strange reason, fish prefer worms. So when I went fishing, I didn’t think about what I wanted. I thought about what they wanted. I didn't bait the hook with strawberries and cream. Rather, I dangled a worm or grasshopper in front of the fish and said: "Wouldn't you like to have that?" Why not use the same common sense when fishing for people?”

“Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged”

We can also learn how to remove all of our preconceived notions and biases to truly understand others. Brock Yordy, Drilling SME, and highly experienced listener shared his take on this particular concept, “In drilling, the goal of obtaining work is understanding that no matter how much data is available, entering a discussion with a client with no preconceived notions is the best way to learn more. Once you master that thought process, all you have to do is ask the client questions until they are finished.  Listening to learn more and asking the following question eliminates your driller ego wanting to take over the conversation. The next step is for the client to ask you questions, and you will have the opportunity to talk and give value.”

The ability to enter any environment with an open mind and understand the thought processes of others is everything in business. I’m sure you’ve considered how incredible it would be if you could hear other people’s thoughts, right? Well, I have great news for you! Listen attentively and they’ll just tell them to you openly, no magic or super powers needed. 

No One’s Ever Changed Their Mind by Being Yelled at

The final lesson you can learn from escalation specialists is that arguing and debating are worthless. Two quotes that I turn to when asked why I find arguing and debating with others to be a trivial pursuit are as follows by Dale Carnegie, “You can't win an argument. You can't because if you lose it, you lose it; and if you win it, you lose it.” The second qoute is even more direct about the useless nature of fighting to prove a point and convince others, “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.” 

Instead of trying to actively prove why you are correct, and someone else is wrong, try listening attentively and finding ways to make your point without an argument. For instance, the next time an engineer begins to disagree with you on a job site, try asking them to give you the pros and cons for both options and slowly transitioning their mindset to fit your own. You’d be surprised what a calm and logical tone can bring to a disagreement in the field. 

Character and Compassion Ignite Collaboration

All in all, the moral of this story is simply that listening actively is the secret to longstanding success in any position in the drilling industry. A person that listens attentively is one that learns actively and succeeds often. This is also a perfect definition of an individual of character and compassion. While many leaders strive to have a reputation that outlives themselves, those that truly know the power of a strong character and strong convictions recognize that speaking loudly and arguing avidly are meaningless endeavors.  

As I leave you to begin to implement active listening into your own interactions, I will share one more quote by Carnegie about character and reputation, “Be more concerned with your character than with your reputation, for your character is what you are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”