Listen to Understand

Why ‘listening to understand’ will improve productivity and efficiency in leadership team meetings

If you ‘listen to understand’ rather than ‘listen to respond’ in your leadership team meetings, it will make all the difference to your company. 

Businesses get bogged down and held up when leadership teams can’t agree a way forward. Hands up if that’s you.

When a group of leaders collide, the outcome can be far from cohesive – team meetings can descend into conflict between individuals, leading to unproductivity, inefficiency and ineffectiveness.

But there is an easy way to improve that productivity, efficiency and effectiveness of your leadership team meetings – if you listen to understand. 

Read more: A better perspective for achieving goals 

Let’s imagine a scenario. You’re in a meeting. Ten leaders are around the table. What would a fly on the wall see? 

  • People eager to get their point across and to make themselves heard
  • People with their own agenda, protecting their own interests
  • They look out for their own team, their own function
  • People talking over each other, interruptions, unfinished sentences, loud voices
  • Multiple conversations as buddies grumble, nod and agree with each other
  • Dissent. Distrust. Blame. Finger pointing. Defensiveness
  • One or two people dominate the meeting. They make sure they get heard
  • Others are quiet
  • Passive aggressiveness
  • People don’t agree with what’s being said but they won’t put their head in the tiger’s mouth. They won’t speak
  • The group plough through the agenda. Nothing gets agreed. No common ground

The meeting ends. People are relieved to get away and there’s a bad feeling all around. 

Some things were decided but nothing will happen. They weren’t agreed, they were steam-rollered.

When leaders can’t agree at team meetings

People go back to the safety of their office, their team, their function. They’re disgruntled and demotivated. 

They grumble and complain to their friends, their team members, about how awful the meeting was.  

This description may sound extreme. Yet versions of this meeting take place day after day, up and down the country, all over the world. 

We’ve seen plenty of them. We’ve heard about hundreds more.  

We’ve also seen leaders have an entirely different experience. They make comments like: 

  • We had so much harmony between us
  • That was the best meeting we’ve ever had
  • I can’t believe we solved that problem, we’ve been wrestling with it for months
  • I can’t believe how quickly we agreed on decisions
  • We’ve agreed actions and I know that everyone will complete them
  • We achieved significantly more in this meeting, than any other meeting
  • Everyone spoke up
  • I’ve never heard Jason (Peter, Elizabeth or whoever) speak up before and they made a lot of sense
  • I feel so good
  • What great people we have in our team

 What was the difference? These leadership teams had an understanding of a healthy state of mind

With that came the ability to quieten down their mental thought chatter, to set aside their ego and pay attention to their colleagues. 

Once their ego and thought chatter were sufficiently quiet, they could listen and hear their colleagues. 

Understand each other’s point of view and, from that understanding, find a way forward that everyone could agree on. 

Leave your ego behind and listen to understand

Without the mental chatter, without ego needing to be heard, and heard right now, without ego needing to be right, needing to win, people could listen to and hear each other.  

Without mental chatter and ego, the quality of listening is different. Ego needs to respond, retort, fight, win. 

Without ego you listen to what’s really being said, to what’s behind what is being said, to understand and to take account of other’s points of view.   

With ego out of the way, we listen to understand rather than listen to respond.

Read more: Improving mental wellbeing will reap greater rewards 

That alone will make a difference. That alone will change a disjointed group of leaders, who never agree, who keep the business stuck in a time warp. 

They change to become a cohesive leadership team that moves the business forward every time they meet. 

 How long does it take to make the change? Nowhere near as long as you think. We’ve seen this happen in just a few days.  

If you want to know more about how to make this happen for your team, contact us now on 0344 335 0205 or email us at We’ll be happy to discuss it with you.

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