Unlocking Your Leadership Puzzle: Celebrate Your Distinctive Role and Create a Powerful Legacy

Imagine you are dealing with some of the worst team dynamics of your leadership career…

Your numbers are way under projection because your team is struggling to perform. Project progress is slowing as more and more team members call in sick every month. No one is communicating. No one is contributing. Morale is so low, you have to bend over and squint to see it at all! 

Maybe you don’t have to imagine. Maybe this is exactly what you are dealing with in the workplace right now – or you have seen situations like this in the past.

Unfortunately, one of my clients – we’ll call him John – didn’t have to imagine, either. For a while, this was his daily reality. People calling out, checking out, zoning out… and one of them even began burning out. Not only was he concerned for his people, but the bottom line, as well – after all, results had come to a halt!

Now when I first met John, he reminded me very much of myself. I was raised by a strict mother – an authoritarian who assigned tasks and expected them to be completed, no questions asked.

This was my leadership style early on in my career. I spoke more than I listened and focused more on the tasks to be done than the people completing them. It did not get me far – with results or with people. And I could see John was headed down the same path.

So I did for him what I wish someone had done for me early on in my leadership career: I introduced him to the skill of active listening.

Often when we speak with others, we are listening to respond – we are merely waiting for our chance to talk. Active listening focuses entirely on the other person. It is listening to learn and understand. Active listening also communicates to the speaker that you are listening: summarizing their points, paraphrasing what they have said, asking open-ended questions, and engaging them with your body language.

It sounds like a relational skill – because it is. But it has a better return on investment than any program, tool, or trick of the trade…

John would be the first to tell you as much!

John began focusing on hearing what his team members were really saying to him. His eyes were opened to problems he had no idea were plaguing his organization. And now that they began to feel valued, they offered him insightful solutions. People stopped calling out, morale improved, and projects began picking up steam again.

Our team are the hands and feet of our organization. When they do not feel valued, our work has no legs – and therefore, can go nowhere. Active listening is a key skill that leaders use to reinvigorate their people and their people’s performance.

Wondering how you can begin applying this skill? Here are three techniques to try:

  1. Perform the “silent countdown.” There is power in a pause. A thoughtful response that took time to craft communicates that you are truly listening to the speaker – so when they are speaking, try counting to three before offering a response.
  2. Practice “reflective summarizing.” Throughout your conversations, paraphrase the speaker’s points in your own words. When they see you are engaged in the conversation, they know you are invested in their input. Not only that, but this also gives them the chance to clear up misunderstandings.
  3. Schedule “listening sessions.” Dedicate time to your team for them to voice their concerns or share their ideas. This demonstrates not just in present action, but also in organizational posture, that you value them as people and their experience in the workplace. 

I’ll leave you with three questions to think on:

Can you think of a situation where active listening could have changed the outcome for you or your team?

If you were to score yourself on listening over the last month, how would you rate your performance, and why? And what will you do to improve your score?

That’s all for now. 🙂

Become your best version,


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