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Tip 171 - Communication Skill Coaching Competency 3: Active Listening

According to Kouzes and Posner, authors of A Coach’s Guide to Developing Exemplary Leaders, “Coaching can be viewed as both an art and a science. It requires both the science of tools and techniques and the art of intuition and instinct.”

Listening is a critical skill in any role and is one of the most critical coaching skills. How would you rate yourself on the following key listening skills? Consider all situations, not just when you are coaching a leader. What’s your level of expertise? High? Medium? Low?

_____Listen for main points. I focus on the key ideas. I make a mental outline of the main points and relate other ideas to them.

_____Listen for the intent. Every message has two parts, the content, and the intent. I identify the intent by observing and interpreting the non-verbal messages and mentally comparing them with the spoken word.

_____Listen for the entire message. I listen for feeling as well as facts. I pay attention to emphasis and the kinds of words, phrases, or ideas used. I also notice any emotion-filled words. How the speaker was affected may be more important than the message.

_____Resist distractions. I control as many distractions as possible by not taking phone calls or allowing interruptions during meetings. I focus on the speaker’s facial expressions and ignore outside interferences.

_____Use excess thinking time appropriately. I do not let my mind wander while waiting to hear the rest of the message. People speak at a rate that is well over one hundred words a minute and think at four times that speed! I use my excess listening time to focus on the speaker.

_____Withhold judgment. I limit emotional reactions and rarely get excited or angry about others’ comments until I am sure I understand them. I do not immediately draw any conclusions about whether the meaning is “good” or “bad.”

_____Prevent personal biases from interfering with the message. I do not allow my personal prejudices or hot buttons to detract from understanding what the speaker is saying.

_____Summarize and paraphrase often. I demonstrate understanding by rephrasing the speaker’s ideas in my own words. I may summarize by saying, “Let me make sure I understand so far…” or “ The way you see this is…”

(Kouzes & Posner)

Did you find a few areas that you could improve? You don’t need to be coaching a leader to practice your listening skills. You can begin today in your personal and professional settings.


Kouzes, J. and Posner, B., 2010. A Coach's Guide to Developing Exemplary Leaders: Making the Most of the Leadership Challenge and the Leadership Practices Inventory (LPI). Pfeiffer.


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