Developing Others—The Power of Listening

He was seated comfortably, three paragraphs into the lead sports page article when she approached him from behind his favorite chair. “Dad, I really need to talk to you.” She dangled her 10 year old, lanky legs over the edge of the chair as he distractedly muttered, “Uh, huh?” She begins her lengthy diatribe about an event that happened at school and the call he should expect from the teacher and that it wasn’t her fault but she was next to the kids who did it, etc. As she ends her monologue, he mutters, “Uh, huh. Okay. Sounds good.” She swings her feet back over the arm of the chair, onto the floor, and walks away feeling rejected and unimportant, knowing that when the teacher calls, her dad will be hearing it for the first time.

Have you ever done this to your kids? Has it ever happened to you where you knew someone wasn’t really listening? And how many times might you have done this to your employees? Instead of the newspaper, your attention is on your computer screen as you try desperately to keep up on incoming email. Or perhaps you are answering every ping on your smart phone? The only difference between home and work is that your family may be more forgiving than your employees and other work colleagues. Have you considered the cost to your relationships and your team’s productivity when you don’t listen?

Valarie Washington, CEO of Think 6 Results, writes in her article, The High Cost of Poor Listening, “60% of all management problems are related to poor listening,” and that “we misinterpret, misunderstand or change 70% to 90% of what we hear.”

Washington also writes, “There are no shortcuts to becoming a great listener and the price tag for poor listening is high. Listening well can cut down on misunderstandings, miscues, damaged relationships, missed opportunities and disagreements while building strong alliances, increasing knowledge and delivering better results, faster.”

Top executives listen more than they talk and when they listen, they set aside everything else, including the inner clamor, and listen with their full attention. They know that the only way to really know what’s going on, and to really hear what the other person is trying to say, is to listen fully to what’s being said and what’s not being said but is trying to be conveyed.

Great leaders are great listeners and as a result, their employees are more engaged, more passionate about their work, and far more productive. Is it time for you to sharpen your listening skills? To fully assess your Leadership competencies including your ability to coach and mentor others through genuine listening, contact the Institute for Social + Emotional Intelligence at or go to our website to learn more.

4 Responses to “Developing Others—The Power of Listening”

  • Jen Marshall:

    Yikes! That part about how we misinterpret, misunderstand or change 70% to 90% of what we hear is quite scary! And so true about great leaders being great listeners. You can always learn more with your mouth closed!

  • Laura,
    This is terrific. Thank you for pointing out so clearly how important listening is and how often it is not done!

  • It’s amazing what you will find out when you stop and truly attend to what someone else is saying. It takes “self management” in terms of staying with the person –resisting getting caught up in what you want to say next, or wanting to tell a story. Really listening can open up a well spring of emotion for the other person helping them gain clarity and focus. What resources do you suggest for helping adults learn how to become better listeners?

  • Listening is one of my top favorite topics Laura. I have done a few talks at networking events on this. At a Women’s networking event I also had the attendee’s perform a communication exercise to get them to experience what I just discussed. The exercise was something I created based on our S+EI course material, as well as know their communication style. I listed 4 questions (any questions will do as it is meant to get them communicating) and then had them rate themselves. After that they formed their groups of 3 or 4 and then each person took a turn on telling the group their rating of themselves on each question. The group were to quietly listen to the person and then ask Open Ended questions to learn more about the person’s reason for their rating. They were to focus totally on the person talking. However as I walked around the room to each grooup to see how they were doing, I found one person was asking questions and then providing a number of answers for the person as well. So basically they were not letting the person respond on their own. Once it was pointed out to her it was like a “aha” moment. They didn’t get it until they experienced it.
    My points in this talk were three things:
    1) Learn their Communication Style as well as others
    2) Be responsive by listening
    3) Ask questions, show curiosity (and listen)