When someone on your team comes to you with a request, advice, or maybe just wanting an ear, do you listen to them or do you jump right in and give your two cents worth? After all, you’re the manager, you know what they should do, and surely, they’ll welcome your incredible words of wisdom, right? Well, maybe not.
Early in my career as a sales leader, I was that manager who jumped right in and gave advice too soon. I didn’t recognize it until I began working with a coach and she pointed out that often I didn’t wait for the seller to give the full story before I started to take over. And when I did, the tone I affected was more like a dictator—“this is what you need to do”— than an advisor.
So, my coach had me work on being patient and becoming a Better Listener. As a visual reminder, she had me wear a rubber band on my wrist that I would snap when I caught myself jumping in early or talking over the other person. She called it, “stepping on their toes.” This silly (yet profound) piece of advice given decades ago has helped me tremendously throughout my career in my communication with employees, peers, and clients.
Here are two thoughts to consider that will help you or your seller become a better listener:
Make it about them
The conversation doesn’t have to be about making you look good or getting your point across first. Seek to understand first. Make the conversation about the other person. When you do this you will interrupt less. Why? Because all of the reasons we interrupt are about us. When we make the conversation about the other person we will naturally interrupt less.
Remember the irony
Often we interrupt because we want to be helpful; we want to supply a critical point, emphasize something or persuade the other person in some way. As it turns out, by interrupting we’re hurting our chances to be understood, to persuade, to influence, and to have our ideas accepted. The irony is that when we stop interrupting we become more influential. Remembering this irony and our true intentions can help us reduce our tendency to interrupt.
After a lot of practice, I began to talk less at critical times and to hear my sellers out, so my input became more precise. And, by questioning, clarifying, and taking the time to think about my response, my demeanor came off as that of a helpful advisor rather than a know-it-all boss.
The end result? Over time, more people started coming to me with their ideas and problems. Go figure! Today, I can spot a non-listener from a mile away and it drives me crazy. With a little discipline and patience sharpening, this skill can make a huge impact on your leadership effectiveness.