Art of Listening


An interesting thing happened to me the other day. A board member of an influential corporation asked me how our firm helps businesses achieve excellence and grow. I was really pleased to get this question, because most often I simply get the proverbial “what do you do?” question.

I thought to myself, “OK, great. Here’s my chance to share with someone influential how our company can help any organization to develop a powerful leadership culture that yields tremendous growth for both individuals and the company alike.”

I then:

  • Described our methodology (our firm instills a culture of growth)
  • Shared how we work with founders and CEOs and their Boards to create shared objectives – with measurable outcomes
  • Explained how our firm propels clarity in vision and strategy for corporations and their leadership teams, so they can close the gap between what they say they’re going to do (strategy) and what they actually do (execution) [ever notice this chasm?]

My conversation partner waited politely and, at the appropriate pause, asked, “Do you do grant writing for non-profits?”

That’s when it hit me. Most of us do not truly engage in the art of listening. We politely wait for a gap in the conversation to say (or ask) what we want to next.

So, as I fought back feelings of frustration and retracted my self-supplied high-five, I tried to answer the board member’s question differently:

“When we are engaged with non-profits, the result of our work would be that leaders are in the unique position to create more leaders – all around them – ensuring that the best person is in place to accomplish the critical task. In this case, make sure the right person writes the right grant proposal.”

I was sure I said, “We improve the odds of success for the team in place and leave them with independent skills in how to lead differently,” and not “what to do about grants and how to write them.”

The response? “I see . . . so then, you help them write better grants?”

Say what?

While we do help non-profits, that is not what we were talking about to begin with. So I punted – because, no, we are not in the grant-writing-training-business.

Nor should we be.


What we do is help business (and non-profit) leaders develop a thriving culture of leaders in their organizations.

Have you ever been in this situation? You answer the question, but there’s a disconnect.

Who wasn’t listening?

In my next article – I unpack my thoughts on this, but what are yours?

Jump in – tell me your point of view. I want to hear your opinion. And I promise to listen closely.

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