Learning to listen

We’ve been talking a bit about listening recently. And why learning to listen is so crucial.

Why am I still banging on about listening?

There’s now clear evidence that:

  • Effective listening is a key skill during these COVID times;
  • Poor listening contributes to low employee engagement;
  • And most critically perhaps, poor listening has been identified as the number 1 derailer in Corporate Australia.

If I gave you any other skill that was FREE, required no fancy consultants or complex set up, and told you it would help you navigate difficult times, increase employee engagement and potentially stop costly mistakes – you’d be all over it…

And so why don’t we do it?

I suspect there are multiple reasons.

Firstly, no one really wants to think they are not a good listener. And we know it’s something that we all routinely over estimate how good we are at it.

We’re busy. The world has become increasingly hectic and chaotic. Recently, we spoke on my facebook page  about how one client told me that he has between 6 and 8 hours of meetings per day. This leaves, literally, NO time to think or do. It’s no real surprise that we use the “down time” that we do have to multi-task!

Then there are power differentials, emotions, egos and other reasons which also get in the way of being a good listener.

And perhaps, a thought that to listen makes you more vulnerable. Less in control?

What about if you zone out?

If you’ve ever caught yourself coming back into a conversation with no real idea what’s happening, there’s a clue that you’ve not been listening. It happens to all of us from time to time. It’s what you do from there that matters.

If it’s a one on one conversation, then being honest with the person that you got temporarily distracted and missed what they were saying, is both honest and respectful. It gives the person the opportunity to restate what they were saying. And builds trust. It’s usually pretty obvious when someone has zoned out.

In a meeting environment, it is perhaps more difficult but sometimes even more critical, as it’s often where decisions are made, and actions allocated. Finding a way to either acknowledge it at the time or make sure you catch up properly later can be critical.


As a leader, it’s so powerful to model these behaviours yourself. There’s a clue around whether you’re properly listening, and that is that you’ll usually feel both energised and tired simultaneously. Proper listening takes energy and connection.

There’s one more thing to consider – and that’s whether the system is set up to allow for proper listening. Organisations where 8 hours of back to back meetings are the norm are going to find creating the space for proper listening more difficult. As a leader and influencer within an organisation, you can start having conversations about how the system helps or hinders. Whether it creates the space or crowds the environment. And if it’s not working, then make it different.



If the above has whetted your appetite, and you’re keen for more.. Here are some ideas:

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See you soon,

Tammy Tansley
I am a coffee loving, energetic human who loves words, bright colours and spots, silly t'shirts and good champagne. Mum to two beautiful mischiefs. Long time wanderer around the world. Author. Blogger. Speaker.

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