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Listening Between the Lines

Have you seen the tee-shirt with the slogan, "Talk to the hand 'cos the face ain't listening?" Do you feel it's like this sometimes when you are trying to get through to people? But just how good a listener are you? Do you actually "listen between the lines?"

So often we hear about a problem, and immediately jump in. We want a quick fix. However, we are inside our own head, and make no attempt to get into the head of the other person.

As a leader of staff it is very challenging to keep quiet, and to listen. This is the key, though, to getting the best out of your workforce. Take the time to listen to what they are saying. What motivates them? What are they putting up with at work? What issues really concern them?

As a parent, or as a partner, we become mindful of our own listening skills. So often, lack of time, and stress in our lives get in the way of listening to those close to us. We hear, but we do not understand.

It is always tricky being around adolescents with their notorious mood swings. And yet, if you take the time to listen to them, to participate in their lives, you may discover a real friend. The key is to put your own issues on hold, and to get to know the child at his or her level.

My teenage daughter and I were talking about the bombings in London in July. Her value set was obviously challenged. I made time and space to listen to her, and let her drive the conversation. As a result, I was able to build up her trust. A stronger relationship between the two of us emerged.

This is no different from what you could achieve with your own staff. Let them know your door is always open, that you are open to discuss any problem they might have.

Be careful about how high you set expectations. Do you give the impression that you just want to get the job done? Do people feel that you are so focused that you would not listen anyway?

By taking the time to listen you will be able to address their grievance, and move on together. Everyone will be happier, and you will have laid a real foundation of trust.

Julianne Kuhlmann, founder of Kool Results Coaching, offers Leadership Coaching and Consulting services that are tailored to meet the personal and professional development needs of leaders and leadership teams. Julianne provides individual and team leadership coaching, as well as a variety of workshops on leadership development. Contact Julianne at, and visit

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