The top skill you need to be successful

June 27, 2019

In my role as Incubator Manager I get the pleasure of meeting a lot of Edinburgh Napier students, graduates and staff. Often I get asked what is the key to the success of a start-up.

Should I spend money on this?

Will my business work?

Where should I launch?

Ultimately, it all comes down to one skill. Listening!

Edinburgh Napier student participants at BRT's first Freelance workshop.

“No one is as deaf as the man who will not listen”

– Proverb

So, what makes a good listener and why does it matter? Here are four easy points that will make a massive difference to your communication game.


Giving nonverbal feedback to the person you are listening to is crucial. Eye contact, head nods, and positive facial expressions all help the talker feel that you are engaging with what they are saying. There is nothing worse than people giving you a “stone face”, which makes you wonder whether they are even listening at all.

Giving verbal feedback is also important to build rapport with the person you are communicating with. But keep it short! Small phrases like “that makes sense” or even as small as “yes” can make a big difference.

Big picture

It is important to understand the big picture of the conversation and try not to get bogged down in the detail. It will help you stay focused on what they are saying. Often this is identifying the general idea or picking up on the general emotion.

It’s not about you

Keep the conversation focused on them and their topic. When it’s your turn to talk make sure you are concise and pass it back to them. The best way to do this is often asking them a related question. This will give them a real feeling that you understand and are enthusiastic to learn more.


Take action after the conversation. There is no better way to show the individual you have listened and understood than to action some of the points in the conversation. Make sure this is done quickly. You will be surprised of the impact this will have on your business and even your personal life.

Happy listening!

Bright Red Triangle