Three C’s for Listening Like a Leader


Listening is a vast ocean surrounded by empty beaches.

I’ve been paying attention to listening, both my own and others. You’re more likely to meet a red-crested tree rat* than to meet someone who actually listens.

5 reasons shallow listening is normal:

  1. Desire. Listening is such a bother.
  2. Ignorance. You might listen if you knew how.
  3. Time. Hurry up. The clock’s ticking.
  4. Energy. You don’t have energy to listen deeply.
  5. Discipline. On a list of “hard things to do,” listening is near the top.

Set the stage for deep listening:

Unfocused conversations feel like chasing chickens.

Establish conversational direction or you’ll end up exhausted and disappointed.

  1. What’s on your agenda today?
  2. What good thing might come from our conversation?
  3. What would you like to accomplish during this conversation?
  4. What’s important for you to bring up during this conversation? What’s important to you about that?

Three C’s for listening like a leader:

#1. Character.

#2. Calmness.

Breathe deeply.

Although listening takes energy, it requires a calm spirit.

Inner agitation blocks listening.

#3. Compartmentalization.

Set a fence around your listening space. You don’t have anything else to do except attend to the person speaking.

Explain time limits before you begin. Because listening requires rigor, you might need to set short-time limits.

After explaining limits, attend fully.

The character of a listening leader:

#1. Courage.

Churchill put it this way, “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”

#2. Compassion.

“Compassion is the quality of having positive intentions for others. … It’s the ability to understand others and use that as a catalyst for supportive action.”**

#3. Confidence.

Insecurity seems to loosen tongues and close ears.

#4. Openness.

A closed mind lies behind closed ears.

Poor listening is a character issue.

What’s one thing you could do that would make you a better listener?


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