The Daily Challenge: Are You A Good Listener?


Listening is a leadership skill you can't afford to miss. 


Listen Well.

Time to Read: 4 Mins

Listening is difficult. Particularly if you work in a demanding or fast-paced environment, if you have a lot going on outside of work, or if you are easily distracted by other things. That’s ok, it happens!

The good news is, anyone can become a better listener by being intentional and practicing.

Listening is a key leadership skill - it helps you learn, absorb feedback, make valuable observations, build relationships and invite trust.

Becoming a better listener starts with understanding how you listen. Dr. C. Otto Scharmer outlines the four stages of listening. We've included these below:

  • Downloading: This type of listening is limited to reconfirming what we already know. Nothing new penetrates our bubble.

  • Factual listening: We let the data talk to us and notice disconfirming information. Doing this requires opening the mind—that is, the capacity to suspend our habits of judgment.

  • Empathic listening: We see the situation through the eyes of another. Doing this requires opening the heart: using our feelings and our heart as an organ of tuning in to another person’s view.

  • Generative listening: [...] You listen with openness to what is unknown and emerging.

Generative listening is the most enlightened and active form of listening, where you are fully emerged in the conversation allowing full observation and intake.

Reflect on how you listen in conversations in the context of the four ways of listening listed above.

Step 1: Consider a conversation you had yesterday. How did you listen? Note: Refer to the four ways of listening listed above.

Step 2: Identify what challenges you faced as a listener in that conversation. For example, were you distracted by inner distractions like thoughts in your head and emotions? Or maybe there were outer distractions, like your phone or the people around you?

Were you making judgments about what was being said rather than listening with an open mind, did you find it difficult to empathize and put yourself in the speaker's shoes?

Step 3: Reflect on why you were experiencing those challenges. What can you do in upcoming conversations to help you stay present, avoid making judgments, empathize with your speaker?

Pro Tip: Becoming a more intentional and ultimately better listener requires self-awareness and practice. Use these four steps to help you practice becoming a better listener.

Read more on listening skills:
Active Listening Skills (People Communicating)
Four Steps to Active Listening (Marlow)
How are you listening as a leader? (Smart Brief)

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