Leaders: Think You’re a Good Listener? You Can Do Better

How to become a listening STAR

One bright star in a field of stars“Excellent leaders recognize the more information they have, the better the solutions they can come up with. One important way leaders get their information is by actively listening.

“Listening is an active skill, so you need to do several things if you want to excel. Listening skills are not things you can’t do. For example, I often tell workshop attendees I can’t dunk a basketball. Never could and it’s not likely at 48 years old, standing just 5’9 tall, that I ever will. Jumping high enough to dunk a basketball is a skill I don’t have and can’t acquire no matter how hard I work. If someone told me my career depended on dunking a basketball, I’d start looking for a new career.

But that’s not the case with listening skills! Each of the five pointers I’ll share is within your power to do if you’ll just make the choice to employ them.”

Remember to Stop, Tone, Ask, Restate and Scribble: five pointers to help you become listening STARS.


Do you consider yourself a good listener? What would you add to this list?



This post comes from Thoughtleaders LLC contributor, trainer, and speaker Brian Ahearn, who is an expert on the subject of ethical influence. His blog, Influence PEOPLE, has followers in 180+ countries.

More about Brian Ahearn

Follow Brian on Twitter: @BrianAhearn


5 Top Tips to Starting a Successful Business, by Richard Branson

Wildly successful businessman started writing for LinkedIn.com this year. In his debut post, he shares his insights on how to start a successful business. An entrepreneur and thought leader you can always learn from – get the five top tips he’s “picked up over the years” right here.

Business magnate/billionaire Richard Branson, founder of the 400+ company Virgin Group


What would you add to this list?

YOUR GREAT IDEAS: How are they doing?

Istock-womanthumbsdown2 If we traced the path of GREAT IDEAS in the finest of organizations, we would probably all be astounded at the rate at which NEW THINKING is unintentionally squelched, squashed, smashed, stifled, smothered, misunderstood, ridiculed or just ignored.

Ever had this experience?
Ever felt like this woman looks?


This is what I wrote in an article a few years back. Around the same time, I was invited to speak at an ONLINE leadership forum with a focus on How to Get Buy-In for New Ideas. Over 550 leaders and innovators showed up to explore this topic, representing twenty countries. They came from major companies from every industry, as well as entrepreneurs, government, military, education, health care, and community organizations. I discovered the group was a cross section of CEOs and senior leaders, managers of every type, as well as educators, business owners, ministers, and consultants. Imagine all this diverse talent coming together, peer to peer, meeting on common ground, because they were brimming with NEW IDEAS to bring to their respective organizations. Following the online session, I conducted some follow-on dialogues. Three key themes were identified as BIG BARRIERS standing the the way of introducing the participants’ NEW IDEAS:

  • Culture isn’t open to new ideas.Resistance to change. There is a lack of interest in change and innovation. Everyone sees the need; no one wants to take the risk. New approaches aren’t welcomed.
  • Gender, race, and age still play a role in acceptance of new ideas in our organization. If you think differently or ask too many questions, it leads to losing the respect of senior leaders.
  • Senior leaders/managers take ideas and present them as their own. The focus from our leaders is on execution of strategy; they’ve forgotten people are leading it for them. It would be great if they showed more interest in what people have to say.

This begs a question…
What are the chances that you or other leaders in your organization might be leaving similar impressions about sharing NEW IDEAS? No one would purposely want to have members of their teams or constituents thinking this way. But perception is everything and this kind of breakdown in communication isn’t uncommon. It erodes trust and impacts all organizations ability to put differences to work to generate new thinking, creativity, and INNOVATION. At this time in our history, we can’t afford it. Too much is at stake.


What is alarming is that this reality doesn’t seem to change — at least in the perception of many of those with the GREAT IDEAS. I remember these same barriers coming up now and then throughout my career too. Last week, I partnered up with futurist and filmmaker Joel Barker to teach a professional development class on this topic. It focused on examining resistance to change, providing detailed guidelines, examples, and a step-by-step process that demonstrates how to get ideas accepted. Interestingly, we again discovered a similar result in a poll we took. A new issue did surface — 23% identified “information overload  breaking through the noise as a major barrier. However, a whopping 84% brought up issues similar to those noted above as standing in their way of introducing and seeding NEW IDEAS in their organizations.


Even before my time at IBM circa 1969, Thomas J. Watson, Jr., wrote in one of his well-known Management Briefings: “There’s an old saying that when you talk — you teach, when you listen — you learn. There are a lot of ideas worth listening to in this company. Let’s be sure we’re paying attention — we are never so rich in ideas that we can afford not to…”  It should be noted that this quote was preceded by him sharing a personal leadership story where he hadn’t listened to an employee’s idea to solve a critical business problem. “…Because I was frustrated and tired, I gave [the employee] a short interview and a non-sympathetic rebuff. …Later that evening, I began to worry about the area which he had pointed out, and by morning, I realized that at least constructive and appropriate attention to his idea was the minimum he should expect from me.” Hmmm…Big leadership at work!


What about YOU?

What is the #1 ISSUE you face when it comes to introducing NEW IDEAS?(answers)

For those of you who never have this kind of experience…
What best practice can you share to help others who do?


I look forward to listening your points of view…






A-DK-SEPT17-1Debbe Kennedy
Contributing author
Greater IBM Connection Blog
Co-Founder, GIBM Women’s
International Network for

Founder, President & CEO
Global Dialogue Center and
Leadership Solutions Companies
Putting Our Differences to Work
The Fastest Way to Innovation, Leadership, and High Performance
IBMer 1970 – 1991 L.A.; Anchorage; Seattle; San Francisco
Twitter:@debbekennedy   @onlinedialogues