Why Leaders Don’t Listen
When was the last time someone let you know you mattered by listening to you?
Real listening is the dodo bird of leadership.
13 reasons leaders don’t listen:
- Time. Be honest. You don’t have time to listen.
- Inconvenience. Listening is an inconvenience to leaders with a bias toward action.
- Knowledge. The more you think you know the less you need to listen.
- Solutions. You don’t really listen, you solve. The search for an answer isn’t listening. There are times to listen for solutions. But, people should know that up front.
- Blame. Self-protection invites leaders to listen for someone to blame.
- History. You stop listening when you’ve heard their story before.
- Compassion. Listening to help causes you to listen selectively for ways to be helpful.
- Lack of compassion. You just don’t care.
- Bordom. Some people are boring.
- Need to talk.
- Distraction. Include cell phones, email notifications, and your next meeting on distractions to listening.
- Decisiveness. Why listen when you’ve made up your mind?
Listening can be learned and developed.
Trust leaders who listen.
5 listening tips:
- Believe in the power of curiosity. Current knowledge blocks breakthrough; curiosity enables it.
- Set aside ten minutes to listen everyday.
- Don’t evaluate.
- Eliminate distractions.
- Forget your agenda.
- Exercise your listening muscle. You might need to start with five minutes.
- Listen to language, but include energy and emotion.
- Courageously reflect what you hear. Describe the messages you make in your head and ask, “Is that what you mean?”
- Develop a list of great questions and use them.
Feeling heard is transformational. Until you feel heard, you resist your own development.
Leaders who listen extend respect and acceptance.
Listening is an invitation to belong.
People who listen to us, energize our transformation.
What prevents you from listening?
What tips for listening might you add?
Leadership is more than listening. What needs to be added to listening to make it leadership-listening?
What a timely message, especially after last week’s presidential debates and Carly Fiorina’s comments about listening being a key to why she did so well. I find in my own life that it’s easy to be busy “doing” and “driving” to achieve and fail to listen to those around me. When I take the time to listen, not only do I better engage those around me, but I often learn something that helps focus my actions better than I would have on my own. Thanks for another great message!
Thanks Lisa. Everyone’s leadership ears should perk up when they see engagement as a benefit of listening.
Thanks for sharing your journey.
Comes in two flavors:
1. “I know more than they do; I don’t need their input.” (related to ‘Knowledge’ above)
2. “I’m afraid of what they may say about me.”
Thanks Bud. So many leadership blunders are connected to pride. Your distinctions are helpful. I find #1 to be a “favorite” of mine.
This is such an important topic/discussion..
Talking puts us in a lead posture, listening (with attention) puts the other person in the lead position.. it is such a powerful, door opening tool, and the primary way we understand what’s going on in them.
IMO poor listening carries a message of “I just want to tell, not really engage/care.” and that feels like conceit, not humility or care.
Thanks Ken. I feel your passion in your comment. The idea of that listening opens a door for others to lead is powerful.
I wonder how listening so others can lead informs the act of listening?
Listening is truly an art. As with any art, to master it requires practice. The beauty of this is that we have opporunities to practice all day long; with our children, spouses/partners, friends, colleagues, clients, and as a healthcare professional – patients!
While I am not practicing clinically any more, I still see the adverse effect that our distracted, device-driven world has on healthcare professionals’ ability to connect with their patients. Computers have gotten in the way of eye-to-eye conversations. Patients feel unheard and unimportant. Healthcare providers feel rushed and unfulfilled. There is so much more than information to be gained from having a true conversational exchange. There is empathy, understanding of what makes a person “tick”, relationship-building, validation, encouragement, trust, mutual respect…the list goes on and on.
Thanks for this great post, Dan!
I’m listening! ; )
Thanks Dr. Pinzon. “distracted, device-driven world”… now that’s a phrase. Also, “Unheard and unimportant,” is devastating.
Practice, practice, practice.. 🙂
I was talking with someone about this just yesterday. Here is what I am chewing on: Only listening when you want to listen – is not listening.
I think Bud ^^ hit the nail on the head. Pride hinders listening … so to answer one of your questions.. humility + listening or meekness + listening are, in my opinion, good combinations for a leader. — Great reminders, Dan!
Thanks Jason. We might think that if I don’t feel like listening, I’m off the hook. But that doesn’t work when it comes to getting up in the morning or showing respect to people … or …
Leaders who listen learn from others. There is a good analogy between judging a book by it’s cover and not listening. Without listening, problems are seldom correctly diagnosed and resolved.
Thanks McSteve. Now if we can just believe that we need to learn. 🙂
Thanx..A..Million… …LeaderShip..Freak..Can i..&..Will..i..°¿°… ? …§mj•13
You’re most welcome, trbl13. I think you will.
Stop, Look, Listen and see what you hear! Open to our wildest intentions if we fall on listening ears and open mind individuals, sometimes talk to the wall your better off, comes in all flavors too!
Thanks Tim. “Stop” says to me, calm your spirit and clear your mind.
I agree, take a deep breath count to 30, regroup and move forwadrd
Thanks a lot for this list! Brilliant!!
My pleasure, Raymond.
Great post! It may sound silly, but just as a reminder to myself I put a red “LISTEN!” sign up inside over my office door, prompting me to quickly stop whatever else I was doing when anyone darkened my doorway wanting to talk. I worked hard at being a good listener and had that reputation, so I never wanted to be (or seem) inattentive to whomever was wanting my ear. Just that simple sign was a constant “tickler” and helped me avoid distractions to really listening. It is hard to overstate the value of giving people your undivided attention.
Thanks Jim. Cool idea. Thanks for sharing it.
I think Jim had a great idea. I’m going to try it. I find that I usually interrupt the employee’s story with one of my own that relates to their topic. It takes work to sit quietly and listen. I have a reminder in my office that states “A caring heart that listens is often more valued than an intelligent mind that talks.”
Thanks Janae. I appreciate your transparency. Love the quote.
Good afternoon Dan;
As a Hostage Negotiator and Trainer of Hostage Negotiators, you quickly learn the vast importance of listening. Hearing the communicator is one thing, (Perceiving) the information in a manner the communicator in tends it to be received is a whole other story.
I am in total agreement with your ‘List of 13 reasons leaders don’t listen’. I my professional life I find #8 and #12 to be the most frequently abused. My personal hurdle was #3. Honestly, it was ‘not’ because I felt I was smarter than everyone else, nor was it due to a “know-it-all” attitude. I sincerely believe, most people, even those we perceive as “decent, good people we admire”, don’t intentionally lack the attention the topic in question deserves. I think basic human nature takes over as we nod in agreement, reaffirm we will consider their input while we usher the individual from our office.
Please allow me to share some Negotiator’s tips that clarify understanding and increase ‘correct’ audience perception that matches the communicators intent.
#1 – (Mirror) exactly what YOU believe the communicator said. This does two things. It
shows the communicator you are in fact listening. Which say’s, “I care about what you
have to say.
#2 – (Para-phase). This is a condensed version the listener communicates back to the
communicator to convey proper understanding, or, the lack thereof.
#3 – (Parrot Back). This approach allows the listener to put the communicators message
in his own words, hitting only the ‘Hot Button Topics’, and it conveys to the communicator
whether or not both of you are working from the same sheet of music. ‘Especially’
where some type of action on your part is expected, or, requested by the communicator.
If there is but one thing I’ve learned as a Hostage Negotiator it is this; “The best communicators, (and Negotiators) are NOT the slick, silver-tongued, smooth talking, used car salesman type.
G R E A T L I S T E N E R S M A K E T H E B E S T C O M M U N I C A T O R S . . .
Dan you are firing on all cylinders lately my friend. “Keep on keep’n on!”
Good morning Dan;
Listening, REAL Listening to fully understand content is not given the credit it deserves. When we truly listen to understand we place ourselves in a position to make well informed logical decisions. This gives clarity to unresolved issue’s and problems that plaque you and your organization. True listening conveys to your people that you are a Leader who you care about what they think and that you value their opinions. This is the beginning of building a sense of Community in Teams, Organizations, and Partnerships.
Committing to ‘real’ listening and purposely seek diversified opinions, you
place yourself in the very best position to make well informed decisions. Listening gives clarity, it enhances connection with others, which directly begins to build a positive sense of community.
Leaders; isn’t it time we embrace the simple, logical things that enhance our Leadership Capabilities? How else can we lead effectively if we do not sincerely listen to the concerns, opinions, and suggestions of others?
Every organization will discover a work-force full of skill sets and talents that can overcome any challenge or problem. The problem is, if you don’t take the time to listen, “you’ll never know what your missing.”
Thanks SGT. Wonderful insights. It’s cool that you bring the hostage negotiator hat to the table. It give a feeling of urgency to the conversation.
“Great listeners make the best communicators.” That’s gold.
Dan, another very practical and insightful list. To add one thing to the list, leaders don’t do better in listening because people are afraid to tell them they need to improve their listening skills. Listening skills includes aksing for feedback and having the emotional intelligence to receive it.
Thanks Alan. How do you tell someone to become a better listener when they aren’t a good listener? 🙂
Dan, I look forward to you answering that quesiton in an upcoming blog!
Leaders are not always right.. It is smart to keep your listening ears open at all times and be willing to learn. It takes time and patience to sit quietly and allow your employee to speak and say how they feel rather then interrupt them immediately. You make great points in your post that show the importance of listening. Well done.
Thanks Taylor. Here’s a suggestion. Listen to yourself saying, “I could be wrong.”
Thank you Dan another great post! I’d like to add two more thoughts to this thread:
1) Tip: Use the acronym WAIT. Which stands for Why Am I Talking. When I was learning how to become a better listener, I used to write it on my note pad to remind me to LISTEN. We’ve got two ears and one mouth….we should be listening twice as much as we speak.
2) Tip: Know the differences of hearing and listening. Hearing is what I call Channel 1 listening – when you listen only to respond. Channel 2 listening is empathic listening. When we use empathic listening, we enter into the world of the other person. We’re curious and ask questions to extend the dialogue and understand what is being conveyed on a deeper level. We listen to connect.
Thanks Chris. Love the WAIT acronym. Maybe that’s the sign we put over our door.
Understand the levels of listening is also helpful. Listening for information. Listening to understand. Listening, as you say, to connect. And the coaches reason for listening – listening so the speaker has insight into themself.
This is really amazing; so simple yet so profound. Thanks.
Hello Dan, it’s wonderful! If leaders fails to listen, they are more likely to miss important piece of information from employees too. Great tip for me as a team leader. Thanks so much 🙂
Great article and great comments. Better listening = better understanding = better decisions = better results & better relationships. The one thing I didn’t see emphasized is the power of habit. Good listening and poor listening are very much habitual. It often isn’t personal when someone doesn’t listen to you, they just lack the habit. Building and strengthening the habit of active listening is one of the best investments a person can make.
Thanks for your engaging posts that energize and transform so many leaders. I love your quote: “People who listen to us, energize our transformation.”
A very timely post for me Dan. I’ve been having conversations this week with a number of people about the value of listening and how to practice improved listening. I even read a chapter about listening in Richard Branson’s book “The Virgin Way” yesterday. There are three things I’d like to share: My biggest listening challenge, what makes me feel unheard and another perspective on listening:
Reasons Leaders don’t listen #14 – Spark of inspiration: My biggest challenge around listening is getting excited about something the other person has said and then wanting to chime in with what’s percolated up for me rather than trusting that I’ll remember it if its truly worthy while to share when I’ve fully listened to the person I’m engaged with.
The most challenging thing that others can do to make me feel not listened to is to move straight to problem solving or allow their technology leashes take their focus.
Lastly one of the most over looked ways that a leader can listen is to get out of their office and see their team and clients/customers in their own environment. Visit that environment and watch, listen, ask open ended curious questions and do it often. One of the stories Richard Branson told in his book was about the leader of a hotel staying a night at each of the properties to really “listen” by being in the customer experience rather than taking a 10 minute or even one hour visit to a room.
Great post! Spot on with what we teach in our Leadership courses. I believe the ability to empathize with the one we are listening to is another key to being a great listener. It builds trust and respect and shows the other we truly care and aren’t just listening to their words but the entirety of what they are saying…
Excellent post. If you listen long enough, nine times out of ten people will talk themselves a full circle right back to where they started. That’s where you can step in with a word in season that takes them to the next level. People want to move forward. Often, they just need to feel they’ve been heard first.