Listen! Really listen!

listen“She isn’t interested in my opinion.” “He doesn’t care what I have to say.” “She already has her mind made up!” “He just doesn’t listen!”

Have you ever heard any of these statements about a leader you know? Perhaps, you’ve heard them said about yourself. It may come as no surprise, but poor listening skills can derail the most talented and charismatic leader’s career.

According to the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL), “…leaders are usually shocked to learn that others see them as impatient, judgmental, arrogant or unaware.” Assessments of thousands of leaders in CCL’s database indicate that many leaders fall short on abilities that directly relate to their listening skills, including:

  • Accepting criticism and making necessary changes in their behavior
  • Trying to understand what other people think before making judgments
  • Encouraging direct reports to share
  • Imagining someone else’s point of view

If not corrected, poor listening skills contribute to poor relationships and translate into low employee morale and poor productivity. So what can you do to make sure that you are not one of the many leaders who alienates their employees due to poor listening skills?

Here are a few tips from Sara Stibitz, writer for the Harvard Business Review:


  • Take an honest look at both your good and bad habits
  • Clear out all distractions that might draw your attention away from the person in front of you
  • Ask clarifying questions and repeat back what you heard


  • Assume you know all of the answers — allow for the possibility that others have valuable information to share
  • Overlook nonverbal cues — they often reveal what a person is really thinking
  • React emotionally to what is being said — acknowledge the information even if you don’t agree

What do you do to make sure you are really listening to those you lead?

Anita Rios


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