Effective listening opens you up to new experiences. It was actually my wife and Co-founder, Jordan, who suggested we start The Bid Lab. If I had shut that suggestion down, instead of really being open to what she had to say, we would have never built something like The Bid Lab which I am so proud of and passionate about.
We are all competing in an attention economy. From pings and dings to blinks and rings, companies and content constantly compete for our limited time and attention. How do great leaders turn down the noise and tune in to the messages that matter most? What does it take to be heard above the noise? And how do we create communication that cultivates community and connectedness in a distributed, distracted world? To address these questions, we started an interview series called “Can You Hear Me Now?: Top Five Strategies Leaders Use to Diminish Distractions & Win in the Attention Economy.” As a part of this interview series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Maurice Harary.
Maurice Harary is the co-founder and CEO of The Bid Lab, a consulting company dedicated to helping small and medium-sized businesses find, manage and build their RFPs and proposals.
His experience building a company that started with just $1,500 into a company that has grown tremendously is a great way to help with stories and pitches outside of just procurement and the RFP process. Furthermore, he has helped countless small and medium-sized businesses win their first multi-million dollar deals, and helping smaller businesses drives The Bid Lab’s mission!
Thank you for making time to visit with us. Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. What is one of your most memorable moments, and what made it memorable?
As a middle child in a family of six children, I draw parallels between my upbringing and my love of the bidding process: both require being an expert navigator of complex situations and contrasting personalities.
I attribute this ability to the experiences I had growing up. Born and raised in New York City, I attended New York University’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business and graduated with a degree in Business and Political Economy. I knew, however, that I wanted to see, learn and experience more than what one city had to offer. So I committed to spending semesters in both London and Shanghai. Living in foreign cities taught me about the intertwining nature of business, politics, economics and culture, which has been invaluable in my career thus far.
What is the most unexpected twist in your career story, and what did you discover from your detour?
Hands down the most difficult time we faced when starting The Bid Lab was when my oldest daughter was born extremely premature just as our business was exploding with new clients and revenue. The fear and the stress surrounding all of that is just impossible to describe. Fortunately, I was smart enough to choose a wonderful partner in life and start a business with her. My wife and I really leaned on each other to succeed as both parents and business founders. I am proud to say that both my daughter and The Bid Lab are healthy and thriving today!
According to a recent Harvard Business School study, the most essential communication skill for leaders is the ability to adapt their communication style. How do you adapt your communication style?
A good listener is something we all think we are. But you really have to expand on that. Being a good listener doesn’t just mean hearing what another person is saying. It means digesting it, taking it in, paying attention to body language, and specifically ‘hearing’ what someone isn’t saying. But the simplest definition I can give is that being a good listener means being present. When you are fully present with someone, it doesn’t matter if you are communicating in person or in a remote environment, paying attention and taking the time to respond rather than react creates an opportunity for open communication that creates bonds and opens everyone up to new opportunities.
Clarity is critical as well. What lessons have you learned about how to communicate with clarity in our distributed world of work?
We all get in our own way when it comes to listening. That’s why I put so much emphasis on being present. It’s easy to get sidetracked with the running list of to-dos in your head. It’s also incredibly easy, and common, to hear things and react to them from your perspective only. It’s important to respond rather than react. Don’t be afraid to take your time and really process what is being said so you can get the full picture and not come at communication only from your own understanding. Being clear in how you communicate is also important. Don’t just dash off that message or email. Take a minute to make sure you are communicating clearly. Often, especially in the remote work and easily distracted world we live in, people forget not everyone has the same information or background. Focus on your audience or the individual you are communicating with, and make sure they have all the information they need to understand and be successful.
We often discover what works by experiencing what doesn’t. Tell us about a time when your communication didn’t lead to the desired results and what you learned from the experience.
Listening is the foundation of everything. Really being able to connect with and understand another person doesn’t happen unless you are able to be fully present with them. In my job, I listen to and work with countless small and medium-sized businesses to help them grow and expand. I can’t help them if I’m not willing to listen and truly understand what makes them special so I can market that. My company is also remote by design, which means the listening starts the minute the hiring process starts. I have been able to build a terrific team because I took the time to really hear them in their interviews and I make the time to connect to them via video conference on a regular basis for one-on-one meetings. These meetings are so important to maintaining and advancing great employees while also giving me valuable feedback on my business. That was a key lesson as I started my business and continued to grow in a remote environment. You need to take the time to personally connect. Not having one-on-ones with my employees would have been a huge missed opportunity. Not only do those check-ins allow me to access terrific feedback from my team, but they also allow me to grow personal connections with them so we all feel connected as we put in the effect to expand The Bid Lab and reach our maximum potential both professionally and personally.
What advice would you offer to other leaders who are struggling to have their messages heard and actioned?
Responding and not reacting is a big one. Also, take the time mentally to really focus on the person you’re with. Before a meeting take a moment to breathe and center yourself so you can be fully present and an active listener in the conversation. You never know what wonderful things might come up when you really hear what someone is saying.
Leading a distributed team requires a different communication cadence and style from leading a team in person. What are five strategies any leader can deploy to improve communication and clarity when leading a distributed workforce? Please share a story or example for each of you can.
1. Don’t just hear what you want to hear. Listen to the people who have constructive criticism, whether in your professional or personal life. Really take the time to get out of your own way and absorb what someone else is saying. Even if it’s difficult to hear, there is always a benefit to taking that constructive criticism and using it to hone in on enhancing yourself or your company. This feedback is valuable and if you really take the time to learn from it, you will avoid hearing this same criticism again. This has been especially important as my company and our infrastructure grows. I value the feedback of both my clients and my employees and I harness it to create a company that is as productive as possible.
2. You need to be conscious of and build in mechanisms to listen, and only listen. It’s a good idea to create surveys and consistently send them to your clients to hear their feedback. At The Bid Lab, we always send our clients surveys whenever we complete work. This conscious effort to invite feedback — that we really want to have — has proven invaluable in growing our business.
3. Take the time to ask the right questions. People are often nervous to tell you what they really think or say something that needs to be said. Take your time in communication. Make sure to ask leading questions that invite people to provide genuine responses and stay present in the moment. Sometimes if you just pause before answering people will provide additional information. When you are able to show someone with your questions and thoughtful body language that you are really there to listen they feel more comfortable opening up, even if they are nervous about what they have to say.
4. Effective listening opens you up to new experiences. It was actually my wife and Co-founder, Jordan, who suggested we start The Bid Lab. If I had shut that suggestion down, instead of really being open to what she had to say, we would have never built something like The Bid Lab which I am so proud of and passionate about.
5. Responding and not reacting goes a long way in creating ongoing, fruitful relationships. Often, especially in tense situations, we want to react with how we feel or our thoughts on the matter. When we take the time to really absorb what someone else is saying and mull that over we can come back from a place of respect and openness that encourages further conversation and mutual understanding. Responding and not reacting has allowed me to manage difficult situations, that naturally occur when running a business, with grace and shown others how receptive I am to really working together to find solutions.
What are the three most effective strategies to diminish distractions when there is so much competing for attention?
It’s easy to think that the greater the competition, the louder you have to be. I’ve found the exact opposite to be true. Effective communication often starts with a pause. The more thought-out and measured your delivery the greater a chance you will actually command attention. Anyone can shout. Someone who has something of value to say is willing to be patient and deliver information in a calm way because what they have to communicate actually has value and they want it to sink in. The three most effective strategies I have to diminish distractions when there is so much competition for attention are to pause, slow down and focus your communication. In a busy, rushed world slowing down and showing calm focus is one of the best ways to command attention.
What is one skill you would advise every leader to invest in to become a better communicator?
Slow down! Seriously, taking the time to really hear what is being said and also taking the time to respond in a genuine and thoughtful manner can make you stand out in today’s world. People feel more at ease when they understand you are willing and eager to listen.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Remote work is professional work.
I, too, used to go into a 52-story skyscraper in New York City in a full suit every day. But, when I founded The Bid Lab, I remembered that the people I worked most closely with on my previous team worked out of the UK and India. Why couldn’t I work closely with people who weren’t located geographically nearby to me?
The Bid Lab is, and always has been, a remote company. While there are myriad reasons why remote work is worth championing (environmental impact, productivity, work/life balance, etc.) one of the reasons why I think it works best for The Bid Lab is because it allows us to hire from a unique pool of individuals. I’m looking at you, an amazing writer, living three hours outside of Albuquerque who needs to be available to her elderly mother in the afternoons. And I’m also looking at you, a sales superstar who wants to homeschool her kids, but can also sell ice to an Eskimo.
I’m proud of the fact that The Bid Lab is made up of a team of individuals who have individual needs but also a common ability to log into work wherever they may be.
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Thank you for these great insights! We wish you continued success.