If listening is not a competitive advantage, it's certainly a desirable strength, which business leaders can use to their companies' benefit. To profit from the opportunities of a global economy, you must relate to people. For example, successful leaders of businesses -- both large and small -- rely on relationships to help them grow their businesses, identify suppliers, hire employees and address challenges. These leaders understand that listening is the essential skill required to build such relationships and accomplish these goals.

Advantages to Being a Good Listener

Good listeners recognize that their partners have expertise in finance, marketing and other areas important to their companies and that they benefit from others’ willingness to give objective advice and insights to a particular market. However, gaining access to this information requires developing trusting relationships, which goes beyond asking questions about a vendor's shipping schedule and what success might be achieved by importing particular brands. Successful relationships require that you hear what motivates your business partners and how they conduct their business. You must also listen to learn how two companies might form a successful partnership.

Build Rapport

If you're a boss or mentor who holds a position of power relative to a speaker, and you focus your attention on him to learn his perspective, it enhances his confidence. As you listen to him, he feels respected and that his opinion matters, which makes communication between the two of you easier. In addition, when you listen without interrupting or commenting, the speaker may feel more positive toward you and your objectives and strategies.

Solve Problems

If you make eye contact with a speaker, putting aside your work and ignoring other distractions to listen to him, he will be convinced that you are receptive to his comments. Doing so will also convince him that you're ready to participate in problem-solving activities and that you will withhold judgment until he has completed his presentation. In addition, continuing to listen -- even if the speaker says something alarming -- makes it more likely you'll avoid jumping to premature conclusions and ensure you're able to follow the speaker's train of thought rather than your own. Listening will also enable you to ask clarifying questions, which facilitates problem-solving.

Improve Teamwork

In a high-speed, high-stress team environment, communication is the key to solving problems, yet team members may spend very little time listening to others. Listening is essential to solving the very problems teams are formed to address. In addition, listening reinforces relationships, better ensures understanding, supports quicker problem resolution and increases workers’ accuracy, each of which saves time and decreases costs.