Spring 2019 Leadership Unplugged Part V - The Power of Listening

In a Harvard Business Review article – The Power of Listening in Helping People Change – Guy Itzchakov and Avraham N (Avi) Kluger reported on research they’d done to confirm that “managers who listen well are perceived as people leaders, generate more trust, instill higher job satisfaction, and increase their team’s creativity.”

The art of “listening well” is one that talent mobility leaders have certainly embraced and strive to perfect. It’s a commonly identified core leadership trait in many of the conversations Worldwide ERC® President and CEO, Peggy Smith, SCRP, SGMS-T conducted with delegates at the 2019 Americas Mobility Conference.  Whether focused on their customers, employees, mobile talent and families, service partners, mentors, their own instincts – or all of the above – leaders in the talent mobility industry certainly understand the importance of tuning in and paying attention.

In this final segment of our five-part series, we invite you to “listen in” on Peggy’s “Leadership Unplugged” conversations with mobility leaders on why it’s important, and how to do it right.

For Kate Reisinger, CRP, Executive Vice President, Member Services with Leading Real Estate Companies of the World®, a path to leadership was inspired by a mentor who “always treated every person in the room like nothing else mattered. She had a company of 5,000 agents, and everyone always felt she had their best interests in mind.”  She strives to emulate that same level of individual attention, noting that she hopes that when she is talking to people and doing something for them, they realize that in that moment, they are her priority, and she’s going to take care of them.

That sentiment is echoed in an Association of Talent Development (ATD) article by Cyndi Sax. In Listening is the Secret Weapon of Good Leaders, she shares several practical tips for anyone looking to cultivate “listening leader” skills, and notes “Most of all, be present. When you are in the role of listener, you have one responsibility. By fulfilling it, you can take the first step toward realizing your ideal organizational state.”

The importance of listening to understand is particularly important during a business transformation, a topic of conversation between Peggy and Melanie Robertson, SCRP, GMS-T, Global Talent and Mobility Manager for RSM US LLP. Melanie shared that her role is shifting after 19 years in the business. 

“We’re being expected so much more to be a strategic business partner, and we’re learning as we’re going about how to do that. Especially for my firm, we’re expanding our business growth, we’re teaching the business about how mobility can help us achieve our global initiatives but also, importantly, mitigating risk…

The business advisor function is really our primary goal.”

Melanie Robertson, SCRP, GMS-T

When Peggy asked her to share the essential leadership qualities she draws on to help with that, she added, “First and foremost, I need to understand each line of business as a business leader, and understand what they’re going through, what our talent is going through, and help them achieve their individual line-of-business goals. It’s really important to listen and understand and help guide them to make decisions, especially from a global mobility perspective.” For Melanie, “mutual respect and understanding are key. It goes both ways - to be a good leader, you have to listen to your talent and hear what they’re saying, and you also have to respect what your leadership is trying to achieve from a mission perspective.”

Deloitte LLP’s Tim Ely, Managing Principal, Global Deployment, highlights the importance of listening in two ways: Being invigorated and inspired by the energy and enthusiasm he hears when spending time in India with his newer, younger team members, and through the positive feedback he’s had on the “continual care” their executive-level associates receive throughout all stages of their global deployments. He credits multiple listening opportunities – in an orientation before they go, a 60-day check-in, consultation at the one-year before return mark and ongoing communication after they get back – with rising levels of assignment and repatriation success as measured in their survey feedback. Knowing that globally deployed colleagues are increasingly describing their experience as “career-enhancing,” and that they and their families are better off for having had it, is clearly a fact that makes Tim proud as he looks to his next chapter: embracing a blend of retirement with a bit of part-time work to stay engaged. 

Jo Lay, SCRP, SGMS-T, Vice President, Relocation with Baird & Warner Real Estate, Inc. describes leadership as “having fun while you do what you’re passionate about.” Jo finds great value in listening to what the multiple generations currently working together have to share. She encourages her team by “teaching them it’s okay for them to ask questions and think outside of the box.  I love for people to challenge me, because it’s the best way to communicate and go forward, which is what the industry is all about.”  When Peggy asked her about how she settles any potential anxiety around the high levels of change the real estate industry is currently experiencing, she notes that the best approach is to fully embrace it. “We want to talk about it. I say Baird & Warner is like a 164-year old start-up company: we always want to talk about what can we do better, keep up with what’s going on around us and keep working at it – and not to be afraid.  We embrace that as part of our company culture.”

The benefits of multigenerational communication and listening are also embraced by Gina Schoener, CRP, GMS, senior relocation consultant with Halliburton. With the large number of Baby Boomers approaching retirement, Peggy asked her how she strikes a balance between “beautifully exiting a retiring member while onboarding a new team member.”  For Gina, it’s all about patience and knowledge transfer. “What I need to do is let our new team member spend as much time with the retiring member as possible.  There is so much knowledge there, and so much history with the company that he or she can benefit from. My challenge is the mindset of wanting to know everything ‘now.’  I’m having to say slow down, take a deep breath and listen – because what (the retiring individual) can teach you is phenomenal.”  In an era where instant gratification is becoming the expectation, Peggy asked Gina what she does to encourage new associates to embrace the journey and not just the end point. “I talk a lot about my involvement with Worldwide ERC®…and understanding the value of personal contacts across all areas that I may need help with. I need the new team member to know that that resource is there.”

And Worldwide ERC® will continue to be there, bringing more articles, videos, interviews, courses and events to equip talent mobility professionals with the tools to continue to learn and hone  leadership and management skills.  This is the last of our five-part “Leadership Unplugged” series from spring 2019 – thanks for “listening!”

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