Northbridge / Castlecrag

Real Talk

Looking for something to inspire or inform?



With so many distractions vying for our attention, it’s rare to encounter a person who genuinely listens well these days. Even though we spend 45% of our time listening during a typical business day, our comprehension rate is only around 25%. When people talk we don’t usually listen to them, we think about what we’re going to say next.

But being a good listener is actually an important leadership skill. Listening well can improve your relationships, your understanding of issues and help to resolve conflicts. 

Here are some key pointers to think about and apply when you’re next having a one-to-one... 

1.  We are most often inspired when we’re with others

Conversation with others can spark inspiration, greater understanding and fresh approaches. Letting your own thoughts intrude or trying to analyze what the person has just said, could hinder creativity. A good leader always looks connected, interested and is open to new ideas brought to the table. 

Takeaway skills: take note of what is being said and how people are saying it, make continuous eye-contact and gestures, have an open mind.

2. Are you having this conversation by yourself?

To be a good leader and gain respect from your employees you need to embrace two-way communication. This means trying not to hog the conversation, speaking over the other person or finishing their sentences. Allowing someone to fully express themselves takes patience and compassion. 

Takeaway skills: let the other person speak first to set the tone, keep your input to a minimum, stay in the moment, be respectful of others.

3. Why didn’t I bring that up?

When you engage in ‘deep listening’ you’re not just listening to the words spoken but the subtle subtext underneath. The subtext is the true meaning of what others are saying. Good leaders pick up on clues that the other person drops, probe further and ask questions to gain understanding.

Takeaway skills: notice what’s said and unsaid, have the courage to say what needs to be said, note the emotional state of the person.

4. Leaders that judge others are not listening

Everyone has a different style or approach to communication. As a leader, embracing and encouraging people’s unique ways of expressing themselves shows maturity, compassion and an ability to embrace differences. It also gives people incentive to become their authentic selves. A good leader can stop the critical, analytical part of the brain taking over and allow themselves to learn as they go.

Takeaway skills: don’t make snap judgements, stay with the conversation, be curious, don’t try to guess or ‘get it right’.

5. Don’t just view your employees as tools

Everyone has unique capabilities and skills beyond their job functions. A good leader genuinely cares about his or her employees and conveys this through asking questions and encouraging the sharing of opinions. When people feel listened to they’re more likely to work harder and go the extra mile. 

Takeaway skills: show caring and compassion, focus on the person talking, gather as much data as you can to get a fuller picture, book a follow up discussion.

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