How to listen so your people talk

Leaders who don’t listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say.’ – Andy Stanley.

I have to admit that listening wasn’t something I was great as a young manager. Having grown up with four older sisters I had to work hard to get a word in edgeways, so listening wasn’t a strength. Like many managers I had to work hard to become the manager who listens more than they speak. 

All great communicators listen to their team, giving everyone the opportunity to share their opinion, their knowledge and experience, making sure that any introverts in their team are not drowned out, watching for non verbal clues as well as what is said.

Being known for your willingness to listen, brings you closer to your team; it shows you care about them as individuals, that you care about their input to the business. 

When people feel appreciated in this way, they’re more likely to respect your opinion, which gives you greater influence as a manager.

Listening to your team gives you the chance to: 

  • catch potential issues before they become big problems 
  • notice when someone needs input, or a one to one, or some training 
  • reap some great ideas.

So here are some key pointers for listening well…

  • Be attentive and completely engage in the conversation. Stop looking at your screen, put your phone where you can’t be distracted by notifications, and NEVER look over the other person’s shoulder to what’s going on behind them. (I’m sure it’s not just me who gets really annoyed by that one!) If it’s not a good time, agree a time for your team member to come back when it is.
  • Listen to the body language as well as the words. Look for clues as to how they are feeling. And watch your own body language too – keep it open and maintain eye contact but not so much as to be intimidating. You can do this on zoom too.
  • Ask open rather than closed questions e.g ‘talk me through how it went’ v ‘did it go well’?
  • Ask questions to clarify your understanding. Make sure that you haven’t just taken the words you heard at face value. Ask questions until you’re certain that you’ve fully understood the meaning behind the words.
  • Restate the gist of what you hear, to confirm that you’ve been listening, and that you’ve understood the point your team member is making.
  • Think before you speak and don’t shoot from the hip in a way that may come across as reactive or dismissive. Be measured in your response, and if you want more time to think things through, agree a time to get back to them.
  • We all think & speak at different rates. If you’re a quick thinker & talker, adapt your pace for the slower, more thoughtful speaker or for someone who struggles to articulate. And don’t finish anyone’s sentences!

Every aspect of your role as a people manager will benefit from your efforts to become a better listener. 

Do one thing: next time you meet with your team or an individual, reflect on how much you were speaking and if you were actively listening. Or if you’re feeling brave, ask your team for their opinion!

NB Your Communication System is key to building your Business Rhythm, and is step 5 of a 9 step roadmap that we lead our clients along, to build the business-critical systems that will make your business scale-ready, and free you from the day to day of your operation. 

To learn more about the 9 steps that will move you from slave to your business to scale-ready, visit:


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Marianne Page

Marianne is the author of three books, and is currently working on her fourth, whilst regularly writing her blog, we hope you enjoy it :-)


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