Listening is a leadership superpower. Here’s how you can practice it.


Poor listening is a sure sign of bad leaders. A leader’s poor listening skills can deter a company,s growth and is one of the top time problems identified by employees. This could arise from a simple lack of communication – a failure to share relevant information with those who need to know to perform their jobs effectively.

But again, much of it is a result of poor listening habits on the part of the listener. If you can honestly answer yes to the following six questions, you already qualify as a good listener: Otherwise, you might as well practice the discipline of effective listening.

Are you a good listener? Take the quick test.

  1. In the midst of a busy and noisy plant or office, can you concentrate enough to understand everything that is said to you?
  2. When someone is presenting a lengthy proposal, can you keep your attention focused on the speaker’s ideas instead of letting it wander?
  3. Knowing that you can think about four times as fast as a speaker can talk, do you use the extra time to ponder what is being said?
  4. When listening, can you block out the speaker’s delivery and physical appearance?
  5. If a talk is boring and of little value, do you concentrate on listening for something of value to come?
  6. When the speaker makes disparaging remarks or the talk is boring, can you suppress your emotional response enough to hear what is being said?

Effective listening is more difficult today than in the past – due to an increase in multitasking. Most people accept the fact that our brains cannot focus effectively on two things at the same time. Yet we are so busy, our heads swimming with thoughts of things yet to be done, we feel we can half-listen and still get by. Unfortunately, this seldom works. The brain simply doesn’t function this way.

Don,t be just the listener. Be a great listener.

An important part of the communication process is active listening. There is no greater way of displaying respect than listening attentively to what people have to say. Establish eye contact. Resist the temptation to glance at your watch or smartphone. Devote full attention to the speaker. Don’t interrupt and never make judgmental or negative statements.

Focused listening can save time and improve interpersonal relationships.

Show interest by giving the person your full attention. As you listen, actively seek out the new information, ideas, and the person’s point of view, and don’t be distracted by the way the ideas are expressed. It will keep your mind from wondering. And above all, have an open mind.

Listen with curiosity. Speak with honesty. Act with integrity. The greatest problem with communication is we don’t listen to understand. We listen to reply. When we listen with curiosity, we don’t listen with the intent to reply. We listen for what’s behind the words.

Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

When you speak, you only hear again what you already know. But when you listen, you also learn what other people know as well. Listening is a skill, and like any other skill, the less attention you give it, the more mistakes you make.

And from the other person’s perspective, nothing kills our initiative more than the feeling that what we do or say doesn’t matter.

The onus is on the listener to avoid pre-judging, daydreaming, interrupting, criticizing the speaker’s delivery, reacting to emotional words, or being distracted by the environment.

As psychotherapist Elaine Smookler suggests in the February 2017 issue of Mindful magazine, “Listening is really just taking time to experience what we’re hearing at the moment.” Poor listening is a by-product of poor time management. If something is important enough to listen to, it is important enough to listen to with your full attention.

Don’t be a passive listener. Be an active listener.

Lean forward to demonstrate your interest in the instructor and what he or she is saying. Establish eye contact. Resist the temptation to glance at your watch or the door. Devote full attention to the speaker. Don’t let yourself have judgmental or negative thoughts. During the question, period speak up. The lack of any response suggests you aren’t listening. Ask for clarification. Summarize key points and ask if you’ve interpreted them correctly. Listen for ideas, not details. But hear the person out.

Most people are flattered when you listen to them, managers and staff alike.

Accept that listening is a priority

Once you do, you can decide to fully focus on what the other person is saying. You can do this by periodically summarizing in your mind, in your own words, what is being said, and either confirming or questioning the point of view – all the while deciding what the person is trying to communicate beyond the words. In other words, occupy your mind with thoughts of the conversation so it won’t have any spare time to wander.

Effective listening can be learned.

It is an active skill, and as such requires a greater mental application. Listening can be a stress reliever as well. According to Paul Wilson, in his book, Calm at Work, listening is a calming technique. Of course, he was talking about listening to the sound of our own breath, but it is also more calming to be listening to others than to be speaking yourself.

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