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Leadership confessions #2: on having poor listening skills

Updated: Jan 26, 2023

Starting to write this post, after the ‘what is it that I want to share about this’ thought, I asked myself ‘why should my leaders-readers care’ and then I moved to the next thought… ‘are we even aware as leaders how it feels not to feel listened to’?

I fell in love a bit with this question and now I’m reeaaaaally curious about perspectives on it. A penny for your thoughts…

In order to be motivated to change a behavior it’s helpful to empathize with the impact of our behavior and/or to receive undeniable wake up call feedback.

But reality is that in our bubble full of data driven discussions, top down communication expectations, fancy consultancy reports about attrition and with people sort of listening to us just because authority, ta-daaa, and maybe, just maybe, a culture where sensitive feedback to the leader might not be the status quo, it’s easy to be untouched by the pain of not being listened and to miss that ‘it’s you, it’s not them’.

I was truly fortunate to have my share of tough feedback from my teams. Hooray to me for hiring the right people and being open to see the hard truth after some iterations :D. Eventually this and my genuine willingness to optimize myself, led to my decision to finally tackle my poor listening skills.

What it’s clearer to see now is that I was lacking patience, I had an unstructured thinking preference (from 1 you can reach 10 in a different way than going from 1 to 2 to 3…) and with my preference for highly objective, data driven conversations and a bias for problem solving you can only imagine I was not the easiest to work with boss ever.

It took me a really long time to improve this and I’d say that only with training and becoming a coach I truly feel I am a good listener. And thank God, beyond self awareness, I got tons of validation that transformation is in place.

It's been a couple of years since the day when I admitted I had a problem with listening and I started working on it actively. For sure it took me more than 1 year to embody a better listener perspective and see the benefits, but even more to fine tune and fully become a good listener.

I’m not preaching coaching as a silver bullet for everything, but it can accelerate personal transformations. If you’re trying to change but you feel unsuccessful or it simply takes too long for the time you have, you might give this solution a thought.

2 of my favorite books on listening

Time to think, Listening to ignite the human mind (by Nancy Kline)

Just listen (by Mark Goulston)

And something funny… It’s not about the nail.

Or is it?!

Reflection time:

How does it feel not to feel listened to? Can you get curious and really experience this feeling?

How do you think poor listening skills impact teams/people? And why should you make this a priority now for you or your company?

Why I wrote this article… it’s in the hope that vulnerability will be embraced by more and more leaders, to do my part in normalizing that working on changing our behaviors is not a walk in the park and ideally to plant a seed of inspiration for those ready to work on their listening skills.

I'm convinced that the world would be a better place if our leaders become better listeners.

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