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Desert Highway
Thoughtful writing authored and shared by members of of the Thinking Collaborative community to support others on the journey.

Sustaining the Journey

Listening as a Leadership Tool

Authored By:

Thinking Collaborative


August 01, 2016

August is generally a time when we return to professional conversations. We work together as teams and we conduct formal and informal coaching conversations. Many of these conversations have the purpose of finding answers. “What do we/I do? How do we/I do it? How do we/I solve this problem?”

What we know is that a single, right answer is rare when engaged in true team dialogue or in a deep structure coaching conversation. In these instances, we recognize that there are many, many variables that are outside our locus of control. So we invest in what we CAN control. Listening with the intent to understand is one of the most powerful, controllable variables utilized by leaders.

According to Melissa Daimler, in Listening is an Overlooked Leadership Tool (2016), decades of studies have shown that we spend from one-third to one-half of our time listening, but actually retain only about one-half of what someone has said. Based on these studies, listening with the intent to understand is a challenging skill to master. Because deep listening creates an environment of safety and trust when done well, we know it is imperative to develop these deep listening skills.

Daimler highlights three levels of listening:

• Internal listening occurs when you focus on your own thoughts, concerns, and needs. This type of listening is usually done concurrently as you pretend to focus on the other person.

• Focused listening is when you are able to focus on the other person, but still may not be fully engaged in what they are saying.

• 360 listening is when you are listening fully to WHAT the other person is saying and HOW they are saying it. You are also paying attention to what they are NOT saying by noticing their excitement, their pace, their tone, their silence, their posture, etc.

In your conversations this week, how might you monitor your level of listening?

As a leader, how might you develop disciplined listening?

Next week we’ll talk more about 360 listening!

Daimler, M. (June, 2016). Listening is an overlooked leadership tool. Harvard Business Review, May 2016. Retrieved from

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