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What I Struggle With Most: Listening

Today (April 20) is the anniversary of one of my greatest leadership landmine lessons where I learned...

Those who don't listen to their people will eventually be surrounded with those who have nothing to say.

You know how principals sometimes find themselves working on large projects by themselves that should be a collaborative decision.

Well, ten years ago I developed the second half of the school year calendar over our winter break. I was very proud of myself, feeling “ahead” for once. When the staff returned we went over the key dates and celebrations.

On the calendar I listed April 20th as Earth Day. Leading up to the event I was excited hearing all of the cross-content ideas the team was putting together for Earth Day. The day ended up being a HUGE hit. I could not have been more proud of the way the staff came together as collaboration had been one of our areas for growth. 

You could imagine my surprise when two days later I woke up, on April 22nd, to the news and saw all of the Earth Day celebrations happening across the nation? 

How could this be? How could the entire staff have gotten it wrong?

When I should have been asking my team, why didn't anyone correct my calendar error? 

Or at least question why I set the wrong date on the calendar?

This may seem like a little thing but a huge indicator that when your people do not tell you the little things, it makes you wonder what BIGGER things are they not sharing? 

Remember, those who don't listen to their people will eventually be surrounded with those who have nothing to say.

One solution to solve this problem is to learn how to listen

Learning how to listen is a vital step in becoming an effective leader. Researchers have found that the average executive spends two hours talking each day but eight hours listening. 

After spending the last 30 days quarantined with my seven year old son, I estimate that the average stay-at-home parent spends 12 to 16 hours a day listening!!! 

Well... at least one of the five levels of listening (more about this to come). 

Whether we realize it or not, whether we are intentionally engaged or not, we are always listening. Sometimes we are listening to new ideas, listening to a story, to music, to the background noise of a television, or in a true conversation where we are sharing our thoughts and conveying important information. I don’t know about you, but after a day of listening and communicating at any level, my brain is exhausted. 

I invite you to listen to the Five Levels of Listening lesson I recorded just for you or, feel free to just read through the levels below.

Happy listening,


P.S. Over the next 90 days I’ll be hosting free leadership lessons focused on teaching effective communication, leadership, personal growth and overall school improvement. 

Click here to see the upcoming training events.


5 Levels of Listening

Level 1: Non-Listening: This is when a person deliberately chooses not to listen or hear any noise or conversation not related to them. Examples might be conversations of which you are not a part of while sitting in a Starbucks. 

Level 2: Passive Listening: This is when you are a semi-part of a conversation that you are not too interested in. Examples are: chit chat at a party or during a small group gathering. 

Level 3: Limited Listening: Listening as best as you can to a monologue conversation with an occasional conversation. Examples might be sitting in a lecture or staff meeting. 

Level 4: Selective Listening: This is bottom line information and being part of a communication between two or more people. The big idea is remembered, while the details are secondary. An example might be sitting with a salesperson or vendor. 

Level 5: True Listening: Highest, most involved level of listening. This level demonstrates the highest form of respect. There is a clear understanding, and a call to action. As Stephen Covey shared, you are listening to understand, not to reply. An example might be talking with a mentor of your choosing, a loved one or partner in life.

Click here: Learn the Five Levels of Listening

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