Chapter 9 - Be a Good Listener - Having Empathy to Get to Trust
One of my favorite nuggets of learning from my interviews was this, "We have two ears and one mouth, but for some reason there's still a lot more talking than listening going on."
Marty Weintraub, Founder and Evangelist of aimClear Online Marketing Agency very quickly grew his small consultancy to a sought after boutique agency because of his ability to listen. He listens to brands outline their pain points, he listens to team members share their dreams, he listens to the industry to make sure he's informed.
This is so much more difficult than it sounds. It's our gut reaction when we hear
"I don't feel supported
-like I have role clarity
-like I have ownership
-as if my efforts align to my pay
-that my work is respected"
to give reasons why that assertion is wrong. Fight the urge. The minute people have the bravery to share and that sharing is met with rejection, you've lost the opportunity to be trusted and to lead.
Simon Heseltine is the Senior Director of Audience at AOL, speaker and respected columnist. AOL is one of the largest media companies in the world and Simon's job for the past 7 years has been "getting SEO into the DNA of the company". That mandate has evolved enormously in the past few years.
Heseltine works closely with management, IT, social and content developers to make sure their stories are discoverable "in the right place, by the right audience at the right time". When AOL purchased the Huffington Post in 2011 the stories and assets to optimize grew enormously. As his position has evolved from SEO to Audience Development he has embraced search optimization skills which include persona modeling and audience engagement. His skill as a listener has helped him to address the strategic problems at hand, not just those that impact SEO and that has been pivotal to his success.
Prior to his work with AOL he worked agency-side. When asked, "What were your biggest frustrations when working with big companies," he quickly answered, "Not getting recommendations implemented." This is a very common problem for the client/vendor relationship. Particularly when it comes to technical SEO, very small changes can have enormous financial impact. Getting our teams to listen, whether in-house or client-side, requires that we listen first.
Having the ability to listen to management then demonstrate the potential business impact of the change will move the recommendations from a "nice to have" to an "implementation priority" more quickly Heseltine says. "Listening and helping them understand how a recommended solution solves their problem is far more effective than just giving them an implementation list of technical fixes."