Are You Really Listening?

“Listening is a multidimensional practice. It requires commitment and constant attention, and leaders cannot survive or thrive in their work until they learn that fundamental lesson. But even when they do listen, they need to remember that they can’t take the signals they pick up on—good or bad—at face value. Instead, they must listen so attentively and systematically that they gradually develop a richly nuanced sense of the nature of their organization, its complex dynamics, and what it feels like to work there.” HBR – Are You Really Listening?

Effective and empathic communication rests on the practice of listening well. Or, as a former manager used to gently say: “seek to understand before being understood.” I was recently reminded of the power of listening, coupled with strategic questioning, as part of a week-long mediation training in support of my practice. The art of creating and holding safe spaces for others to share information, ask questions or express divergent viewpoints can be transformative. It can also facilitate rich, productive conversations across a diverse range of topics and perspectives. While certainly key for successful mediations, effective listening is no less important for our daily professional and personal interactions.

This week’s post explores what effective listening is, how to do it well, and traps to avoid if you are looking to create a culture centered on curiosity, honesty, understanding, reflection, debate, and compromise in your work and in your personal relationships. In addition, I have included a recent PwC survey of global CEOs’ perspectives on an array of topics, as well as a recent report of the necessary steps to define a new future of work here in California.

As always, happy reading and listening!

Be well and take good care of your families and community,


Are You Really Listening? “Senior leaders, particularly CEOs, confront a central paradox in their work: They generally have access to more lines of communication than anybody else, but the information that flows to them is suspect and compromised…But they can escape that bubble…by working actively to create a more expansive ‘listening ecosystem.’ They first have to learn how to listen actively themselves, without distraction or judgment, purely for comprehension; then they have to create systems and processes all around them that elevate listening to a constant state of hypervigilance.”

Active Listening: The Master Key to Effective Communication.Active listening, like any skill, is developed by practicing, not by reading about it. By applying the concept to each conversation we have, we can gradually develop the ability to communicate well.”

How to Debate Ideas Productively at Work. “We can change this dynamic, moving toward more effective discourse (exchanging diverse ideas) and debate (arguing honestly for and against the merits of those ideas), by training people to adopt the right habits.”

PwC 24th Annual Global CEO Survey: A leadership agenda to take on tomorrow. “…Company leaders are capable of the kind of change that’s needed, but they’ll need to think differently and constantly evaluate their decisions and actions against broader societal impacts. We recognize that this is a daunting challenge, and it is in the spirit of this recognition that we present our 24th Annual Global CEO Survey—as a snapshot of leaders’ sentiment, and as a road map of the priorities ahead and how we can collectively address them.”

Future Of Work in California: A New Social Compact For Work and Workers. “Through its work, the Commission identified critical challenges for California to address for work and workers. Many of the challenges for work and workers have existed for years. Here we focus on those that, if unaddressed, could persist or worsen. These challenges are informed by technological and economic trends underway in California and by anticipated future shocks and opportunities. Many of the challenges identified by the Commission have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.”


The Bregman Leadership Podcast: Just Listen. “What are you listening for? Dr. Mark Goulston, a UCLA professor of psychiatry, former FBI and hostage negotiation trainer…shares his powerful listening methodology…Discover his FUD (Frustrated, Upset, Disappointment) approach for difficult conversations, learn what it means to take the conversation to the ICU (Important, Critical, Upset), and what it means to ‘listen for’ instead of ‘listen to.'”

Freakonomics Radio: No Stupid Questions. “Have We All Lost Our Ability to Compromise‪?”

TED Salon: DWEN: How To Have Productive Conversations. “‘We need to figure out how we go into conversations not looking for the victory, but the progress,’ says world debate champion Julia Dhar. In this practical talk, she shares three essential features of productive disagreements grounded in curiosity and purpose.”

TED@PMI: 4 Tips To Kickstart Honest Conversations At Work. “Why is it so hard to speak up and productively disagree at work? Leadership and organization coach Betsy Kauffman shows how to bring the candid conversations…out into the open with four practical strategies you can implement right now to have honest, transparent discussions with your colleagues.”

Blog Posts
Eric Barker: Barking Up the Wrong Tree. New Neuroscience Reveals 4 Secrets That Will Make You Emotionally Intelligent. Emotional intelligence starts with you but it quickly extends to others. Practice these skills and you no longer have to use the tired expression ‘I know how you feel.’ You will know how someone feels. You’ll be able to describe it and understand how it differs from other feelings. You’ll relate. And one of the greatest gifts we can give to others, now and forever, is to make them feel they are not alone in this world.”

Seth’s Blog: Grievance and Possibility. “Organizations/partnerships/systems that are usefully focused on possibility don’t deny that there are reasons for grievance, that there have been actions and omissions that must be addressed. In fact, they adopt a posture of forward motion as the best way to address the problems that came before.”

Arts, Music & Culture Corner

A Wrinkle in the Realm. “He no longer noticed his own mask, but he began to see the masks of others. When he walked home in the evenings, he wondered why he had never noticed them before. Now that he did, he saw that it was necessary to avoid them and he crossed the street before it was too late.”

On Keegan-Michael Key’s Podcast, a Provocative Case for Sketch Comedy. “The 10-part series mixes history, memoir, analysis and performance to show how classic scenes can be revived just as classic theater is.”

First look: Swingers crazy golf comes to America just in time for the new Roaring Twenties. “What do you get when you cross miniature golf with street food, a live DJ, and booze?…Swingers, a high-concept entertainment clubhouse and cocktail bar franchise where guests indulge their love of both elaborately designed golf courses and local cuisine.”


“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”

– Stephen Covey

“If the person you’re talking to doesn’t appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small bit of fluff in his ear.”

– A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

“We will sit and listen without judging or reacting… We will sit and listen so attentively that we will be able to hear what has been left unsaid. We know that by listening deeply, we already alleviate a great deal of the pain and suffering in the other person.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

Kevin Jordan

Kevin Jordan is an International Coach Federation-certified executive coach who serves as a strategic advisor, mentor and facilitator to executive leadership teams and private clients to achieve peak performance and agility resulting in sustained engagement and value. Drawing upon a career as a leader and consultant, Kevin is able to work with clients on personal and professional development, relationship optimization and team and leader dynamics. He has deep expertise and experience developing and realizing strategic vision through a relentless focus on optimized business operations. He is also skilled at building sustainable culture and workforce engagement through the power of people and organizational partnership, as well as delivering results and value with high performing teams during periods of intense change.

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