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How to Be a Professional Listener

Updated: Nov 18, 2020

“I’m going to be a professional listener,” said a participant at our workshop for the Better Business Bureau this past week. That was his biggest takeaway from the session; Steph and I were giddy about his goal. We all aim to be great listeners, but how well do we really do that? Here are some practical tips that you can use with every employee interaction summarized from Scott J. Miller's new book, Management Mess to Leadership Success. 1. Slow down. When you’re managing people, shift from an efficiency mindset to an effectiveness mindset. Be efficient with systems, meetings and things. Take time to be effective with people. The late Dr. Stephen Covey said, “With people - slow is fast, and fast is slow.” If you don’t take time to listen to your employees, they’ll go elsewhere.

2. Be deliberate. Think about your body language when you’re meeting with employees. Put your phone away, close your laptop, take off your glasses, and eliminate distractions, even if you’re in a busy environment. Look them in the eye and let them see that you’re listening to them.

3. Zip it. Keep your lips closed; even when you think you have all the answers. Don’t try to fix their problems. And here’s one of my takeaways from Miller's book; don’t keep firing more questions at them. Ask a couple of open-ended questions and get your employees to talk. Let them come up with their own solutions. Validate their frustrations and their ideas.

4. Use the 70/30 rule. During one-on-ones, your employee should talk 70% of the time and you can talk 30% of the time. Have them organize their own one-on-one with what they want to talk about. And never ever ever cancel a one-on-one. That says “I don’t care about you at all.”

As a leader of people, listening is one of the most important things we can do. It takes confidence in ourselves to let our employees shine brighter than we do, to not be the smartest person in the room, and to help people grow and succeed.

Take 50 minutes to listen to FranklinCovey's, Scott Jeffrey Miller's interview on Awesome at Your Job - How to Prevent Management Messes.


Learn more about our keynote, workshops and team building sessions by emailing Margie Adams at or go to

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