We interviewed Robert Joss recently. He’s the former vice chairman of Wells Fargo and chief executive of Australia’s Westpac Banking Corp. Here’s something we didn’t have room to mention last month: When we asked for the topthat distinguishes the best managers, he didn’t hesitate.
“The most important communication skill is to listen and pick up on unspoken questions and concerns that employees may have,” says Joss, who was recently named to the board of directors of Citigroup. “Sometimes, people are too embarrassed to raise certain topics.”
To sharpen your ability to observe others, learn to love silence. If you spend more time making friendly eye contact with people—and less time talking (or pondering what you want to say next)—you begin to see things you might otherwise miss. For example, you may notice how an employee fidgets when making certain comments or laughs nervously when describing a sensitive incident with a co-worker.