International hostage negotiator Richard Mullender on what FDs can learn about the art of listening

There are very few good listeners, according to Richard Mullender, a former international hostage negotiator whose work has seen him negotiate the release of UN workers held in Afghanistan, help free Norman Kember in Iraq and talk countless suicidal individuals back from the ledge.

Most people focus on active listening skills – nodding or appearing intent. But real listening is the identification and interpretation of key words that turn information into intelligence that can be used to your advantage. And that ability is as crucial to a finance director negotiating a deal, handling investors or dealing with tricky stakeholders as it is in the world of hostage negotiation – albeit that the stakes aren’t quite so high.

“The number one skill is the ability to understand the other person and see them not as wrong but as different,” Richard explains. “You need to have the ability to really understand the how that person thinks and what they need to be persuaded.”

Don’t interrupt, or ask questions that change the direction of the conversation, Richard says. Instead listen to the rambling, that is where the vital information is to be found.

Richard spent three decades in the police force, ultimately as the lead trainer of the Hostage & Crisis Unit at Scotland Yard. He has worked with agencies including the FBI, UN, Indian Secret Services and the Scorpions in Mandela’s South Africa.

Now he is bringing the skills he has honed in life or death situations to the world of business, teaching board level executives how to develop elite listening skills that can directly impact their bottom line.

Richard Mullender will be sharing his top tips with over 150 finance directors at FD Surgery Manchester on November 2. To hear more from him and a host of other top speakers including Chas Howes, former CFO of Superdry, register your place here.

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