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IBM’s Stacie Mason: “How Do You Know What To Say If You Haven’t Listened?”

In this edition of our Corporate Competitor Podcast, Maxwell Leadership Thought Leader Don Yaeger sits down with IBM’s Stacie Mason to discuss the art of listening and why it’s still a leader’s greatest asset in a diverse workplace. 

Stacie Mason says she has a lot of “little skill sets in my bag” learned alternately from her years as a competitive cheerleader, apprentice electrician and computer storage sales specialist, the last of which enabled her to rise through the ranks of IBM to her current position as Global Managing Director for the company’s relationship with TD Synnex.

But the skill set in which she takes the most pride is that of “question asker.”

“I like to ask questions,” said Mason, who, when asked why she likes to ask questions, answers with another question or two. “How do you even know what to say if you haven’t listened? If a leader isn’t spending a good amount of their time talking to their clients and their employees, how on point is their message going to be?”

All fair questions, and Mason routinely answers each through her own leadership style by recognizing that in a diverse workplace and world, the best bet is to assume nothing, ask everything and, most importantly, listen carefully to what is being said. When she asks a teammate, “What are you experiencing right now?” or asks a client, “How do we compare to the competition?” she’s not going through the motions or being polite. She’s showing interest and creating a “respectful environment” in which honesty can develop—and she’s not afraid of what she might hear.

“You get a lot of answers you don’t want to hear,” Mason acknowledged, “but if you don’t know the problems, you can’t fix them, right? You have to have an open heart to hear whatever they say.”

In the podcast, Mason shares her best practices for successfully communicating in a variety of business settings, including meetings, one-on-ones and mentoring. Listeners will enjoy her lessons on what makes a good listener and a good mentor, including:

• Three leadership qualities every mentor should develop with their mentees.

• How to determine whether you want to be a leader or an executive leader.

• Politeness versus respectfulness.

• How to blindspot-proof your leadership team.

Mason says the most effective teams she’s been on were filled with people of diverse backgrounds, experiences and points of views. “The last thing you want is a team with a bunch of people on it who say, ‘Hey, we’ve never done it that way, so it can’t be done.’”


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