I’m a terrible listener. I’m not just bad at listening — I’m really, really bad at listening.
Now you may be asking yourself, as the reader, why should you care? Maybe you shouldn’t. But, if you’re in a leadership role, or will be one day, you can potentially learn from my mistakes. If you’re not in a leadership role, then you can better understand why others don’t listen well. And if you can peek into their mental universe, maybe you can help them change.
In order for me to get to the root of my own listening issues, I need to focus on two questions: why am I a bad listener and can I change?
Last year I served as the president of a campus organization called TechList. Some days I wanted to punch a wall. Some days all I could do was laugh, using humor as a shield against the onslaught of insanity. When advising the incoming TechList president before he ascended the throne, I told him that campus leadership, much like Toy Story 3, is a roller coaster of emotions.
During my time at Georgia Tech, I’ve been involved in as many organizations as humanly possible. This kind of lifestyle can be exhausting, but I've also helped found two organizations, run for vice president of the GT student body and — when I came in first loser — worked within the GT Student Government Association as graphics chair and creative director.
And I haven’t just been involved on campus. I’ve worked and interned at a tutoring agency, an enterprise mobility management company called AirWatch, and now the most excellent of digital marketing agencies — Nebo.
All these experiences taught me a lot about the joys and frustrations of leading. But most importantly, leading has taught me how to follow.
Interns and young professionals: It’s important to know that being a good follower isn’t intuitive. Like with many soft skills, it’s easy to overlook competent following as an asset until you experience its alternative up close.
Here's what I learned from my stints in the C-suite:
Wednesday, November 9th was a hard day — an unexpectedly hard day, thanks to political analysts. I woke up with a strange feeling in the pit of my stomach. A feeling similar to the time I found out my dog killed my neighbor’s guinea pig — empty with a sense of grief and no real explanation for the feeling. But it was still Wednesday, a day like any other day, so I made my avocado toast and went to work. As I got on I-20, I found myself filled with anticipation and with one question on my mind:
What would my coworkers say?
When the British government levied another tax on tea entering the new world, American colonists decided they’d had enough. Gathering in Boston Harbor on a cold December night, the protesters boarded an East India Company ship and hurled 342 chests of tea straight into the harbor.
Before there was an America, or even an American Revolution, there was a single protest and a catchy slogan: “No taxation without representation.” An emotion took hold and an idea took flight, spreading through the new world.
But this feeling wasn’t unique to the Boston Tea Party. In fact, most great movements begin the same way — with powerful messaging that we think of as PR and advertising.
I’m a millennial who works from home. Not all that rare or interesting, right?
Except I’m not a fan of it.
Ten months ago, I relocated from Atlanta and had to leave Nebo behind — at least in the physical sense. I was thrilled to find out I could work remotely, and I was even fantasizing about how amazing it would be. I mean, who gets to work for an awesome company, doing cool projects, while hanging out at home every day?
Well, it’s actually becoming more common. But the point is, it seemed ideal. And then I did it for a while.