Leaderful Listening

August 10, 2022

How can you master leaderful listening?

By Rebecca Morgan, CSP, CMC*

Leaderful Listening - NEXT CONCEPT HR MAGAZINEIn leadership training, participants are typically told how important listening is. Yet few heed the advice.

I can understand why. Often, it’s because we already think we are good listeners. But how a leader listens is more crucial than one’s listening style as a peer.

Leaders’ everyday behaviors have gravitas and impact. Subtleties and nuances can be misinterpreted and blown out of proportion. The simple act of pushing back on an idea can send a leader’s direct report into a tizzy. Leaders have to be much more mindful of how they respond to ideas offered by their direct reports.

I call this “leaderful listening.”

I learned how to listen better (as a leader) from doing it wrong.

When I was in my first year on the board of my national professional association, I thought I was a good leader. But I had a lot to learn.

Tom, a long-time member approached me to suggest that our national convention should always be in his home city, San Francisco. I proceeded to tell him it was too expensive, our members liked to go to different cities each year, and there weren’t a lot of hotels that could accommodate the quantity of meeting rooms we need. Case closed.

I was essentially saying it was a stupid idea.

Is that how a good leader would listen? No!

I could have gently probed, “Tom, that’s an interesting idea. I appreciate your bringing this idea to me. I always want to be open to new ideas that will serve our members.”

“I know San Francisco is the second top destination in the world, so I can see the appeal. I need some help thinking through a few concerns the board will have.”

“Even with group discounts, San Francisco hotel rooms are costlier than our members are used to paying. They are price sensitive and don’t attend our events if the hotel room price seems too high. How do you think we could mitigate this being an issue so we don’t lose attendees?”

“Our members say they like visiting different cities around the country, so how could we entice them to come back to the same city over and over?”

“One of our challenges is finding enough hotel meeting space. Our members aren’t keen on going to a nearby convention center. Do you know if the large hotels have a good number of meeting rooms?”

In my original approach, how likely would Tom offer other ideas? If this is my standard way of responding to new ideas, his willingness to offer more is close to zero.

By helping Tom understand the concerns and enlisting him to think through the solutions, he becomes an ally.

He feels valued rather than shut down.

Even ideas that seem dumb when first offered can morph into great ideas by thinking through the possibilities. The new idea can shift your paradigm by causing you to approach the situation differently. You want to encourage fresh approaches, not squelch them.

How can you become a more leaderful listener?

  • Acknowledge the person for offering new ideas, no matter if you think it’s a good one or not.
  • Ask questions rather than shut down new ideas.
  • Engage the other to help come up with solutions.
  • Ensure your tone is gentle when you probe, not argumentative.


Rebecca L. Morgan is an international speaker, trainer, and consultant specializing in leadership development implementation. She’s appeared on 60 Minutes, Oprah, the Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio, Forbes.com and USA Today as well as international media such as The Straits Times, Brunei Times, and the Malaysian Star. A decades-long Silicon Valley resident with a multitude of innovative clients, she’s studied the best practices of companies who’ve created, survived and/or thrived with disruption. Rebecca is the bestselling author of 27 books, including Leadership Lessons from Silicon Valley: How to Survive and Thrive in Disruptive Times and Grow Your Key Talent: Thought-Provoking Essays for Business Owners, Executives, and Managers on Developing Star Staff. Her customized presentations are thought-provoking, highly interactive, and full of immediately usable ideas. She knows what works. Since 1980 she’s transformed executives, managers, salespeople, and customer support staff into much more effective workplace contributors.

*Join Rebecca Morgan at the
HR Leader Summit

Tuesday, November 5
Golden Gate University
Registration 8:00 – 8:20 am
Program 8:20 am – 4:00 pm

Qualifies for 6.0 General HRCI Recertification Credits (pending approval) / 6.0 SHRM PDCs

Rebecca will present: Leadership Lessons from Silicon Valley
8:30 – 9:45 am

About the session: Google, Facebook, and others have uncovered what it takes to attract and retain top talent. Rebecca will outline the highlights from recent studies and how you can implement the ideas. HR knows what it takes to attract and retain top talent. Learn about steps proven to be successful in attracting and retaining top performers, including key ideas from successful Silicon Valley companies that keep their teams humming. You will understand Google’s 5 top elements for creating an effective team and how to apply these to your organization, as well as Facebook’s surprising findings on why good employees leave.

Rebecca will draw on both her latest book and Google’s Project Aristotle, where they identified five components of high performing teams.  She will supplement this with additional data and experience of other local companies. Not just for Silicon Valley teams, this interactive session is applicable to any leader seeking to build a high performing team.

Next Concept HR Association HR Leader SummitFind out more and register for the HR Leader Summit >> Here.

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