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Want to be a better leader? Then shut up and shut down, because leadership starts with listening

(0:00:00) Intro:

Welcome to the Behind The Billboard podcast. Here’s your host, Kris Lindahl.

(0:00:06) KL:

You have to listen to lead. So today I want to talk about being a great listener. The reason I want to talk about this is I know early in my career, I didn’t really listen to anyone— including people that I was meeting with because all I wanted to do was talk.

I think that some of you listening can relate to that as leaders, as sales people, whatever your position maybe, we tend to talk too much. When west into this role of attempting to be a better person and a better leader, we have to make sure that we’re listening more than we’re talking.

Everyone knows what it’s like to meet with someone that isn’t a good listener, that isn’t paying attention, that’s distracted, that’s not making eye-contact, that’s not giving you any sort of interaction where it feels like you’re talking to a brick wall that really has no interest or really doesn’t seem to care about anything that you’re saying or sharing. The reason that this is the way that it is is because we talk way too much. I know I’ve said that a few times already but it’s important that we shut up and that we stop talking so much.

When we listen, it also puts us in more control. We’re not trying to convince someone to do something. We’re not telling someone to do something. We’re listening. I always see, “Seek first to understand.”

You don’t want to get upset easy. When you’re listening, you have a tendency to take that information and sort of emotionally react to what you’re hearing and what you’re listening to and I just challenge you to take the information and don’t make emotional decisions. Don’t reaction right away. Then come back with a solution baed on the information that you have. I would say that as I’ve grown as a leader, this is one area where I’ve become a lot stronger. I take the information and I don’t make irrational decisions on the spot. Or I don’t talk too much and try to create a solution. I take the information, I go home. I think about it. I think about the response. I analyze the response. And then I come back with a solution. Rather than try to solve the problem on the spot, which a lot of times when we’re listening we try to solve that emotionally, but it’s always interesting when you become a great listener how much more you get out of a meeting.

I can’t even tell you how many meetings I was a part of early on in my career and when I was younger where I left a meeting and I wasn’t even quite sure what happened because I talked the whole time. And when someone else talked, I wasn’t even listening because I was so focused on what I was going to say next. It was so self-serving and it’s been one area where I’ve really tried to increase my ability to listen at a high level.

Now when I go into meetings, I put others first. Really put others first. The other part of it is we’ve now become so distracted by technology— whether that’s the laptop that you have open or your cell phone or your iPad, or whatever it maybe. You’ve got these alerts popping up on your screen sitting right next to you on the table. Or you’ve got your laptop open during a meeting whether that’s a company meeting or a one-on-one meeting, whatever it may be, we’re so distracted.

I would just tell you to shut down the devices, turn off the notifications. If it’s your cell phone, put it in your pocket. If it’s your laptop, close it. It you’re in a meeting, it doesn’t mean you’re typing or responding to an email while you’re in the meeting. Be focused. Be present.

I’ve shared on previous podcasts that I really have to try hard to be still and be present and it’s something that I focus on every day. It’s something that I’m always trying to measure because people know when you’re there. And when you’re not, you can feel it and you can see it. I share that because if you want to be an exceptional leader, then you have to be an exceptional listener. We have to listen more and do less talking.

When you have a good listener, like a really good honed-in listener, do you ever notice that they never interrupt you? Now let me ask you a question, when you’re in a meeting or you’re having a conversation— whether that’s on a the phone or face-to-face or whenever it may be— how often are you trying to say something at the same time they’re trying to say something? I’ve been there! I’ve been there plenty of times where we’re trying to stop and we need to interject or we need to jump ahead of someone or we need to interrupt. And a lot of times it comes off as disrespectful and it can confuse people. It can upset them. And just remember to put others first and don’t interrupt them. I always try to focus now when I’m meeting face-to-face with someone, I nee to listen to the point where I can recap the entire conversation word-for-word because a lot of times, as we listen, what we are listening to, a lot of the words that people are sharing and telling us, are probably part of the solution and most people usually know the answers, we just might have to hide them al little bit or extract the information and if we’re spot on with listening, we can take that information, we can get them closer to the solution. But when we’re checking in and out and going, “What was that? Or sorry I didn’t…” and we’re in and out, it’s hard to help others come up with a solution.

And when I say “solution,” solution is different depending on the meeting. The outcome could be different depending on what it is. For a lot of our meetings within our organization, it’s feedback from me. It’s constructive feedback— how do we grow? How do we learn from this? I can tell you that if I’m not listening, I’m doing a disservice to them. I’m not the leader that they want me to be. If I want to lead this organization at a high-level, I have to listen and be able to coach, train and give that constructive feedback and the only way that we can do that is by quitting down— really quieting down— and just listening and really focusing on that.

That’s so hard for so many of us— including myself. You think about every appointment you’re in as a leader, the words you use and the listening you do can literally change their life. I’ve watched it. I’ve watched the transformation of so many people in our organization from the meetings that we’ve had.

Now, am I the greatest leader of all time? Absolutely not. But I’m striving to be one of the best listeners. I can tel you that the reason why I’ve been able to have an impact on so many people— and this isn’t just specific to our organization or the families that are a part of it, this is the community, this is past clients, this is friends family… This is everyone I come in contact with.

I listen. I ask a question. Listen. I do way less of the talking now than I used to. I can tell you that the interactions I have with people are changing their life— not because I’m some special human being that’s full of greatness, it’s because I’m listening and I’m picking my spots. And I’m also listening to the point where I can see that people get emotional… were they get passionate. We can tell! When we’re paying attention to people, we can see where they’re excited… where they’re sad… where they’re scared… where they’re mad… where they’re upset… When we’re a great listener, we can pick those points and we can either go deeper, we can have a conversation around those spots and it makes such a huge difference when you really have a pulse on your organization or your department that you’re leading, you actually can be present and be a great listener.

It’s really disrespectful when you’re not investing your time in a meeting and listening. Because then what happens is people start to resent you and no one wants to work for a jerk. No one wants to work for someone that doesn’t care or doesn’t have the time to listen. If we want to coach and train and lead at the highest level, then we need to listen to what people around us are saying because not only does it make us sharper, but it makes them better. And we show up better for them as well.

If you want to lead at the highest level, I just want to share with you, the most effective way to do it, is to be the greatest listener in the world. I guarantee you that will change you ability to lead.

(0:08:45) Outro:

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