Seven Secrets to Listening When Time is Short


The need to feel important closes ears and open’s mouths. Listening is both humble and humbling.

Talking makes you feel important.
Listening to others makes them feel important.

Seven reasons you don’t listen:

  1. Entitled. You deserve it. After all, you’re the boss.
  2. Big brain. You know the answer. Quick minds stop listening quickly.
  3. Helpless. You’re problems are so big you can’t hear anyone else.
  4. Militant. You’re defending your position.
  5. Judge. Everything is either/or, so you can’t explore.
  6. Insecure. Needy people need to talk.
  7. Blame. You’re finding or assigning fault.

You can’t get the best from
those who don’t feel heard.

 Seven secrets to listening quickly:

Quick listening isn’t the best, but it may be your only option.

  1. Explain time pressure. “I’m interested. I only have five minutes before my next meeting.”
  2. Relax the tone in your voice. Take a breath.
  3. Begin where most conversations end. Ask, “What’s important about this?”
  4. Say, “Tell me what you want to tell me.” Help them get to the point.
  5. Ask, “What can you do?” Avoid reverse delegation – that’s when their problem becomes your problem.
  6. Establish accountability. “Call me tomorrow and tell me what happened.”
  7. Stick with time limits. If you said, “Five minutes,” then stick to it.

Bonus: When appropriate, invite them to a longer conversation.

Five steps toward calm listening:
(even if you only have five minutes)

Calmness is an invitation that says people matter.

  1. Monitor your calmness level while listening. Imagine yourself watching yourself. Awareness usually does the trick.
  2. Open your hands under the desk and hold your palms up. Or, sit with your arms open.
  3. Ask at least three questions before making one statement. Assume you don’t know.
  4. Test and explore rather than defend.
  5. Forget your answer, explore theirs.

Bonus: Express gratitude.

What listening strategies help you listen well?

How can leaders listen well when time is short?