I participated in the Society’s Process Consulting Training course at just the right moment. My professional life, previously so successful and smooth-flowing, hit an unexpected bump when my decades-long employment came to an end. Undeterred, I started my own company only two days later; and promptly injured my relationship with my very first client. I can see now that this harm was largely caused by my own tendencies to be too forceful, and maybe just a little bit of a know-it-all.

Something wasn’t working. I wanted to assist my clients, lending them my expertise to guide them through complex issues and challenges, but the listening piece just wasn’t coming naturally for me. Luckily for me, the Process Consulting Training reminded me that listening is a competency and skill that can be learned, practiced, and constantly honed. It had to start with me moving out of “I’m an expert, let me tell you what to do” mode, and into a space of respect, good questions, and deep listening.

If you know me personally, you know that I wear my heart on my sleeve and think all my thoughts out loud. High-quality listening is something I have to do with conscious effort, and it takes constant discipline. I’m still working on it, but I can say that today my company has more clients than ever before, and they are all smiling ear to ear. My team and I are transparent, admitting when we don’t know something, and we come in with a listening attitude, ready to innovate together. I intentionally meet my clients with as open a mind as possible, expecting to learn as much from them as I hope they will from me. No single human is ever going to come up with the perfect plan or the most elegant solution, especially in the complex world of data and analytics. Everyone wants to innovate, and everyone wants to be a part of something bigger than just themselves. The best ideas only ever surface through collaboration and partnership.

My constant work toward being a better listener has allowed me to experience more of the thing I’m most passionate about in this world: adventure. I seek out adventure in all areas of my life, and in my work I unearth the most exciting challenges and new experiences when I’m doing my best and deepest listening and learning. It’s like climbing a mountain – anytime you might think you’ve reached the peak, just put your hand to your ear and you’ll discover summit upon summit still to go. (For more on this, read my blog on the Great Data Adventure linked here.) That’s what drives me to get out of bed every morning. Pause and listen. What utterly new situations, people and challenges are you going to discover as you walk alongside your clients today? What new stories will you be able to tell?

This month’s Member Spotlight falls on Michael Magalsky, Certified Process Consultant and the founder and Principal Architect at infoVia. Now an independent consultant specializing in Information Architecture, Data Warehouse Modeling and Implementation, and Data Security, Michael draws from his quarter-century of data and analytics experience at Micron Technologies while walking alongside his numerous clients.