Coaching Skills 101: Active Listening

Living Intentionally and Embracing the Moment

As a CEO, you want to be a leader that builds a successful company that is efficient, serves well and truly makes a difference. Whether you’re running a business, a family, a church, or a non-profit, you are growing an organization. You are a CEO, and you are truly influencing others.

In my upcoming articles, I will be discussing what it takes to be an effective leader and an effective coach. How you can think like a CEO, act like a leader and grow your own organization. Great leaders and coaches are constantly improving themselves and their coaching skills (such as active listening, providing feedback, setting clear outcomes and acknowledging people). These coaches help others to grow to the next level. They have the skills, expertise and the desire to positively influence others’ performances.

In this article, we will focus on the coaching skill of active listening and truly being present.

What does a great listener do that makes you feel special and honored?

We all get busy and distracted in the midst of the challenging goals and expectations we have at work and with our family. It can be hard to really listen and tune in, yet this is exactly what a great listener does that makes you feel special. Think about how it feels when someone doesn’t listen to you, and you don’t feel heard. Is being a better active listener something you’d like to work on?

Active listening creates a strong interpersonal connection with two-way communication. It communicates respect and honor. So how do we do it?

  1. Recognize: Acknowledge the other person’s communication with a head nod, a comment of yes or I understand you.
  2. Repeat: Restate the content, meaning and ton of the communication. (Example: Bob, you’re really frustrated that you’ve missed your goal by $5,000.)
  3. Ask: Ask questions to clarify the communication. (Example: Are you saying that recruiting four new people is a top priority for you this year?)

Active Listening: My Personal Experience

A few years ago, I came home from a really long day of coaching and selling in Atlanta. I came in with my briefcase, went down stairs to my home office, and Kathryn, my four-year-old daughter, was following me as I went down stairs to drop off my things.

Pulling out a couple things from my briefcase, I started organizing files at my desk and really was only half-heartedly listening to Kathryn.  “Yes, I hear you. Cool, that’s great. That’s good.”  This went on for some time.

Eventually, she walked up to me, got right in my face and took my face in both of her little hands. Pulling my face to eye to eye with her, she said, “Daddy, you’re not listening. Play with me. Now.”

It was like an arrow was shot through my heart. I teach people active listening, yet I’m not listening or tuning in to my daughter at all. I missed the moment and the connection. Are we present to the gift of the moment?  Are we present to the opportunity to love and connect with people? We must fully tune in and be a generous listener and communicate genuine honor and respect.
The Barriers to Active Listening and How to Fix Them

We often don’t listen or tune in. Why is this? What are the barriers?  It can be as simple as being distracted by telephone calls, emails or texts. It can be noise, fatigue or pressing business problems and deadlines. It can be personal crises or even our goals that create the barriers that keep us from truly tuning in.

How can we fix this? We need to embrace the moment, or we risk missing it forever. There are three positive actions that need to be present:

  1. Visual responses: Look at the person who is talking with you and create eye contact. See the whole person, become like a camera and take clear pictures.
  2. Auditory responses: Create positive self-talk to help you focus. (Example: Say to yourself tune in… I really want to support them.)
  3. Kinesthetic responses: Take three deep breaths and become centered. Lay your back against the chair. Be present.

Active Listening and Being Present Takes Practice

Here are some practical things that you can do to practice active listening, being present and embracing the moment:

  1. Enroll a friend or someone you work with to be giving you feedback. Am I actively listening? Are you feeling heard, respected?
  2. Once a day, have a conversation where you practice the positive activities of being present. (Example: Look at the person, create positive self talk to help you focus and tune in)

Your life is quickly moving forward, great coaches actively listen and practice being present. You have to embrace the moment and fully tune in – or we miss it forever. Don’t miss the chance to truly love and serve. Know that your active listening truly makes a difference as you create connections and communicate respect and honor.

Take three deep breaths. Get present. Life is moving.

Tom Guzzardo