Motivational Speaker. World Class Pianist. Funny.

Listen Well, Lead Well

Six ways to become a better listener 

I’ve never forgotten the simple statement that a senior manager with BP said about being a good leader when I gave the opening keynote speech for their conference several years ago. He said “great leadership begins with listening well”. 

1. Listen to Learn, Not to Be Polite 

“Often, whether realizing it or not, people listen to each other out of generosity, not out of curiosity,” says Ajit Singh, partner for the early stage venture fund Artiman Ventures and consulting professor in the School of Medicine at Stanford University. “Listening is good, but the intent has to be curiosity, not generosity. True dialogue does not happen when we pretend to listen, and it certainly cannot happen if we are not listening at all.”

“Each day, ask yourself, ‘What am I going to be curious about?’” says Gregersen. “Stewart Brand, [editor of the Whole Earth catalog,] wakes up every day asking himself, ‘How many things am I dead wrong about?’ Both questions effectively open your ears. It’s having a beginner’s mind-set walking into a conversation.”

2. Quiet Your Agenda

While you can’t control someone else’s listening habits, you can control your own, and that involves quieting down your mind.

“Turn off those agendas,” says Gregersen. “Really listen to what someone else is trying to say. We need information that is disconfirming, not confirming. If we ever finish a conversation and learned nothing surprising, we weren’t really listening.”

3. Ask More Questions

One of the simplest ways to be a better listener is to ask more questions than you give answers, says Gregersen. When you ask questions, you create a safe space for other people to give you an unvarnished truth.

“Listening with real intent means I’m going to be open to being very wrong, and I’m comfortable with that in this conversation,” says Gregersen. “In a world that’s getting more polarized, being able to listen is critical to reducing unnecessary conflict at any level, within a team, organization, or on a broader political country level,” he says.

4. Pay Attention To Your Talk/Listen Ratio

Strive for a 2:1 ratio of listening to talking, says Eblin. “If you’re a note taker during meetings or conversations, try keeping track of how much you listen versus how much you talk,” he says. “Mark off a section of the paper and write down the names of all the people on the conference call. Whenever a person talks for more than a sentence or two, put a check mark by his or her name. That includes you, too. The visual representation of comparing listening to talking might hold some lessons for you.”

5. Repeat Back What You Heard

A number of problems interfere with people’s ability to understand accurately what another person is trying to communicate, says Adam Goodman, director of the Center for Leadership at Northwestern University. “Am I anticipating what the other person is about to say? Do I agree or disagree with what’s being said? Maybe I’m agreeing too quickly and, upon reflection, I’d find myself disagreeing later?” he asks. “Put simply, there’s more opportunity to misunderstand then there is to actually understand.”

Instead, implement a process called active listening. “It’s been around for a long time, and works if done right,” says Goodman. The basic concept is repeating back to the speaker what you heard. If the speaker agrees that what you heard is what he or she intended to say, you can move on. If not, the speaker needs to reword their statement until the listener really does understand.

6. Actually Wait Until Someone is Done Talking Before You Respond

The most difficult component of listening effectively is waiting for a period at the end of a sentence before formulating a reply, says Leslie Shore, author of Listen to Succeed.

“When we begin working on a reply before the speaker is finished, we lose both the complete information being offered and an understanding of the kind of emotion present in the speaker’s delivery,” she writes in her book.

This is dangerous, says Gregersen. “When I’m the most important thing in the world, that’s the moment when I’m most likely to be thinking about next thing I’m going to say instead of listening to you,” he says. “At the very core, that’s what going on; I’m declaring to the world I am more important than you. That’s an uncomfortable moment of self-awareness, and a self-serving way of approaching life.”

We all require self-focus, but leaders who make a difference are the ones who know the purpose is bigger than themselves, says Gregersen. “When a leader is operating on the edge of what’s possible, they’re in strong listening mode,” he says.

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MEMORIAL NORTHWEST HOSPITAL

I thought your program was terrific! A great reminder of the healing power of music.

SPRING BRANCH MEDICAL CENTER

I really liked how you connected to our group by using several of us in your presentation. Playing live music made you very unique …motivational and entertaining at the same time!

CHRISTUS ST. JOSEPH HOSPITAL – Fundraiser

Your program is wonderful and your message goes along with our customer service guarantee. I also bought your CD and it is just beautiful!

PRESIDENT’S COUNCIL OF HOUSTON AREA HOSPITAL AUXILIARIES – Annual luncheon

Your presentation was wonderful! Your humor is delightful, your music magnificent and your message is profound!

FIVE STAR QUALITY CARE – After dinner residents program

Thank you for such an uplifting energetic program! I am still receiving compliments on what a fun after-dinner presentation this was…inspirational, entertaining, funny yet informative!”

ST. LUKE’S EPISCOPAL HOSPITAL – Volunteer Appreciation

This type of program was perfect for our Volunteer Appreciation luncheon!

TEXAS HEALTH CHOICE – Staff Development Day 

Dynamic, extremely upbeat and personable! The laughter, reflection of self and interaction with our group was exceptional. Uplifting & fun! Sparkling humor, great energy! What an inspiration! Our staff not only remembered your message but they’re still laughing at your stories!

 MEMORIAL HERMANN HOSPITAL – Nurses Appreciation Dinner

Theresa’s presentation provided enlightenment with entertainment, LEARNING with LAUGHTER and motivation with music.  Her ability to FULLY ENGAGE THE AUDIENCE of nurses in the very timely topic was demonstration of her expertise as an outstanding speaker. Comments from evaluations:  “The best we’ve had!” “Great uplifting program!”

GEORGIA ASSOCIATION OF HEALTHCARE UNDERWRITERS – Annual Convention

I was blown away with your presentation! I particularly liked the way you mixed music, humor, content and motivation while having active audience participation.  Your content put things in perspective for what’s going on in our lives right now. Thank you for keeping us INVOLVED and ENGAGED the entire time!

– Gina Ebers, The Alzheimers Gathering Place

I cannot remember a time when our entertainer has been more engaging and fun!  The laughter in that room was infectious and I loved how you just “went with it!”   We were surprised by many of our  Care Partners who normally are very passive but participated in your program  in ways we’ve never seen. How you play that piano  was something to behold! 

– Sherry Menger, Chapelwood Church, Ladies Luncheon

Theresa was fabulous!!!  She is so very talented as a pianist, she knows exactly what to play for the crowd and she was a beautiful smiling addition to our ladies luncheon. Everyone loved her!!!

– Kerry Ream, Sugar Creek Country Club

Outstanding job for our members wine dinner! It was the first time I’ve ever seen them crowd around the piano watching anyone play. We want you back for ALL our special events.

– Christine Keegan, The Hallmark Senior Living

Our residents LOVED you! They were fully engaged the whole time and it was so wonderful to see the joy on all their faces as they sang along to songs they knew. We want you back as often as possible!

– Jason Luther, Houston TX

“Theresa is an exceedingly talented pianist and added a touch of extra style to my event. All who attended our dinner party commented on the quality of her performance, yet there was nothing intrusive about her presence. I will definitely book her again in the future!”

– Cathy Lightfoot, The Buckingham

Our seniors asked me to book you more often because they enjoyed you so much. Thanks for making me look so good!