How to be a Listening Leader for Millennials

Sales Coaching & Mentoring, Sales Leadership

How to be a Listening Leader for Millennials

Are you a listening leader?

The significance of listening deeply to others is the topic of many leadership books, seminars, and coaching lectures – including sales leadership resource. I recently had an interesting conversation about the importance of listening. Here’s the story…

During coffee break at a leadership conference, he approaches me with a copy of Millennials Matter in hand.  He asked me to autograph his book.  Of course, I’m delighted to do that. He also has a question for me…

He starts with the classic “Oreo” comment, “Danita, I’m appreciating your rubber-meets-the-road leadership tips for mentoring up-and-coming leaders. However, I have an observation I’d like to share with you. Do you mind?”

Oh-oh! Here comes the middle part of the “Oreo”! However, I’m always enthusiastic to hear what people are thinking about coaching the next generation of leaders, so I say, “Please share.”

He locks eyes with me,  “You talk a lot about listening. In fact, it seems to me that you refer to listening in every single chapter. It’s highly repetitive. How is it possible that your editors didn’t catch this and made the correction?”

I ask him what else he has concerns with, hoping for something legitimate for the middle of my Oreo…  He doesn’t have anything else!

Well, I happily told him that this was no mistake!

Listening IS that important. If you want a high-performing team, there’s lots of active listening involved when coaching, motivating and holding people accountable. It can be a difficult skill to remember for seasoned, experienced leaders.

(OK – my Oreo analogy breaks down here.)

That’s why I wrote Millennials Matter as a leadership “How To” resource, and not just another leadership book! So yes, I’ve included many “How to listen deeply” action steps in the book.

Why is it important to talk less and listen more?

Here’s what I see happening.  We have vast amounts of knowledge, wisdom, and insight that we’ve garnered over the years. As we are coaching and leading the emerging leaders, we are so excited and want to dump all of this on them as soon as possible. Therefore, we talk, and talk, and talk…

Next, our emerging leader loses trust. Then, they disengage.  Why? Trust is at its lowest when we talk 75 – 80 percent of the time, and listen only 20 – 25 percent of the time.

This problem is even more pronounced in our technology-driven world. We are living in a world of advancing robotics, artificial intelligence, and digitalization to improve our efficiency. Yet, as leaders of people, it’s more about effectiveness than efficiency. And that involves listening.

We are leaders of people, and yet it feels as if technology and other digital demands keep us from investing in our most valuable resource, our people. For more insight into these daunting leadership challenges, check out How to Be an Engaging Leader in a World of Robotics, AI, and Digitization.

In my work with young leaders, I hear legitimate complaints about how we fail to listen to them. Here’s what one of the millennial reviewers of the Millennials Matter said:

“I fear that some older leaders I know might not take this chapter (on listening) seriously. The importance of listening in a rela­tionship is right on. Of course, they want their business or company to succeed, but from what I’ve experienced, older generations really aren’t taking us seriously.”

This heart-cry can’t be ignored. Here are a few examples of my favorite listening excerpts and quotes from Millennials Matter:

Listening builds respectful relationships:

The Millennials I mentor tell me that by my respecting them, listening intently to what they say, and asking thoughtful questions, I’m guaran­teed of their respect. (Page 178) 

Listening has business benefits:

Listening well requires setting aside our egos and agendas and being vulnerable. It requires courage. The payoff for the courageous listener is abundant. Listening ensures relevance, improves cooperation, deepens relationships, and boosts pro­ductivity. (Page 190)

We all desire to be heard and understood. Consider what might happen when you demonstrate the importance of deep listening skills as you inspire your emerging leader to advance your business growth, as well as your suc­cession strategies – as you grow your future leaders, grow your sales effort, and grow your leadership impact.

And, remember to enjoy and share your Oreo cookies with Next-Gen Leaders! 🙂

Leadership Lesson: Encourage respectful listening by creating a safe atmosphere where ideas can be shared and differing per­spectives can be heard.

Leadership Question: What might you do to strengthen your listening skills as you’re coaching and mentoring your emerging leader?

Millennials Matter
Email me to get an autographed, personalized copy of Millennials Matter for yourself or a colleague.
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