Monday, May 23, 2016

S.T.A.Y. Stop Talking About Yourself

W.A.I.T. Why Am I Talking?

Everyone loves a good listener (and often I’ve been unloved).

My long-term friends are in shock right now; they can’t believe that Rob McCleland is writing about talking less and listening more. Stop talking? I’ve been lousy at that most of my life. Trying to overcome my insecurities or overcompensating for my lack of preparation, I’ve tended to talk too much. Sometimes, way too much.

Why the change? (And why now?) More importantly, how do you go about changing a bad habit that undermines your leadership growth?

There have been two major motivators for me in the past five years. First, as I have moved into the higher echelons of leadership (and been exposed to some remarkable leaders), I find that those who talk too much stick out like sore thumbs. When a “leader” drones on about himself and his knowledge, heads drop, eye contact is lost, and the texting begins. The other leaders exchange furtive glances as if to say, “I know, we all wish he would stop talking. Don’t worry, we won’t be inviting this guy back anytime soon.” In executive circles, excessive talkers are not appreciated. If you’re asking yourself “How do I stop talking about myself” just remember STAY: Stop Talking About Yourself.

When a “leader” drones on about himself and his knowledge, heads drop, eye contact is lost, and…CLICK TO TWEET

My second motivation has been my passion to help younger leaders. LeaderTribe’s primary purpose is to serve leaders in their late twenties through early forties. That compels me to understand their needs, their pain points, and their areas of desired growth. Young leaders today have different needs than I did when I was that age. It’s a different world; I refuse to “write a prescription” before I’ve listened well, understood the “symptoms” and researched appropriate solutions. I had to stop talking and start listening. On my upcoming Daily Dose of Growth podcast, the announcer says, “Relevant, Researched, and Ready for Action!” If I don’t learn to listen well, there is little chance my material will be relevant. I can’t talk and listen at the same time. I have to remember WAIT: Why Am I Talking?

(Cool acronyms, right? Thanks to Holly Moore at Growing Leaders for sharing these with me!)

If I don’t learn to listen well, there is little chance my material will be relevant. CLICK TO TWEET

Now for the payoff:

How do you change a bad habit, an area of weakness, into a true strength? Are you ready for the easy answer? There isn’t one. But there is a solution!

I’ve discovered that great leaders didn’t become great overnight. They started out as average leaders, but they went on a journey to change their behavior. Today, many young leaders believe they can read a book and become a better leader. It doesn’t work that way—it never has and it never will. Reading will help you become smarter, but not better. After reading a great book, you will know what to do—but what will it take to really make the change?

Don’t miss this point: Leadership is a behavior! Changing your behavior is what makes you a better leader. That usually takes time and practice. But there is great news—you don’t have to be the same leader you were when you woke up this morning.

Bottom Line: You can begin small behavioral changes right now. Start with listening better!  Become more self-aware, stop talking or don’t talk as much and put the needs of others before your own. Begin right now! Listen well! An entire new world will open up to you—it has to me.

What “listening lessons” have been helpful to you? Please share them with the Tribe below.

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