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Mindful Listening for Emotionally Intelligent Leaders

Listening for Emotionally Intelligent Leaders

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And when we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others." -- Marianne Williamson

I recently spoke with the HR Director of a San Francisco Bay Area company regarding providing executive coaching for the company CEO and other leaders. She asked some very insightful questions to determine fit. She wanted to know how I worked with different personality styles, and my methods for initiating change in thinking and behavior.

The HR Director and I spoke about my approach to coaching, and my belief that possessing a psychological understanding of human behavior based on neuroscience and business acumen are important competencies for coaching executives. We also spoke of the need for her organization to create a high involvement culture where innovation and creativity flourishes.

The HR Director is interested in collaborating with me to help senior executives improve their listening skills, and get the most out of their executive coaching programs. We further discussed how company leaders could benefit by working with an executive development expert, and emotional intelligence-based executive coach.

Mindful Listening skills

World renowned psychologist Carl Rogers was famous for his emphasis on listening to people with positive self-regard. Most people want to feel that someone truly listens to them and seeks to understand.

"Let me move on to a second learning that I would like to share with you. I like to be heard. A number of times in my life I have felt myself bursting with insoluble problems, or going round and round in tormented circles or, during one period, overcome by feelings of worthlessness and despair.

I think I have been more fortunate than most in finding, at these times, individuals who have been able to hear me and thus to rescue me from the chaos of my feelings, individuals who have been able to hear my meanings a little more deeply than I have known them. These persons have heard me without judging me, diagnosing me, appraising me, evaluating me. They have just listened and clarified and responded to me at all the levels at which I was communicating. 

I can testify that when you are in psychological distress and someone really hears you without passing judgment on you, without trying to take responsibility for you, without trying to mold you, it feels damn good! At these times it has relaxed the tension in me. It has permitted me to bring out the frightening feelings, the guilts, the despair, the confusions that have been a part of my experience. When I have been listened to and when I have been heard,

I am able to re-perceive my world in a new way and to go on. It is astonishing how elements that seem insoluble become soluble when someone listens, how confusions that seem irremediable turn into relatively clear flowing streams when one is heard. I have deeply appreciated the times that I have experienced this sensitive, empathic, concentrated listening."  Carl Rogers Experiences in Communication 

The Listening Process

It has been my executive coaching and consulting experience that a leader or manager invests 80% of her day in the listening process. As an executive coach, I have also observed that many leaders shy away or back down from engaging in tough conversations with their people. These conversations are often extremely critical to the success or lack of success in interpersonal relationships. My purpose is to hold you as highly capable of overcoming some of your greatest fears by becoming a better listener.

The following delineates the emotionally intelligent listening process. Mindful leaders are good listeners.

Active Listening

  • The leader is actively listening
  • The leader is engaged
  • The leader is asking relevant questions to the topic being discussed
  • The leader is still, quiet and calm
  • The leader is patient with questions and suggestions
  • The leader can accurately restate or clarify the discussion

NOT listening

  • The leader cuts people off
  • The leader interrupts constantly
  • The leader finishes sentences for others
  • The leader cannot clarify or repeat the conversation
  • The leader is multi-tasking
  • You can observe or hear pencil tapping, computer keyboard tapping, chair squeaking
  • The leader completely misses the point of the conversation
  • The leader switches subjects out of nowhere
  • The leader listens to some people and ignores others

Poor listening skills causes

  • Arrogance
  • Narcissism
  • Leader is a selective listener (only listens to people who and subjects which interest him)
  • Depression/anxiety
  • Leader is defensive
  • Lack of patience (trying to fast forward the conversation)
  • Overcommitted
  • Insensitive to others and their “stories”
  • The leader really just does not know how to listen

Impact on the company

  • Important facts are completely missed
  • Communication breaks down
  • Employees feel they are not being “heard”, which can lead to attrition
  • Clients leave the company, because they feel leadership does not listen to their concerns

Modeling listening

  • Be patient, quiet and calm
  • Remove all distractions (close your email, turn off cell phones)
  • Don’t finish others’ sentences
  • Don’t interrupt (unless someone is taking you down a rabbit hole and then warn him by saying “I am going to interrupt you”)
  • Clarify by saying “Let me see if I have this straight”…then, rephrase what was said to make sure you heard what the person said

Are you working in a company where executive coaches provide leadership development to grow emotionally intelligent leaders? Does your organization provide executive coaching for leaders who need to become better listeners? Mindful leaders tap into their emotional intelligence and social intelligence skills to create a more fulfilling future.

One of the most powerful questions you can ask yourself is “Do I focus on listening to others?” Emotionally intelligent and socially intelligent organizations provide executive coaching as part of their transformational high performance leadership development program.

Working Resources is a San Francisco Bay Area Executive Coaching Firm Helping Innovative Companies and Law Firms Assess, Select, Coach, Engage  and Retain Emotionally Intelligent Leaders; Executive Coaching; Leadership Development; Performance-Based Interviewing; Competency Modeling; Succession Management; Culture Change; Career Coaching and Leadership Retreats

...About Dr. Maynard Brusman

Dr. Maynard Brusman
Consulting Psychologist and Executive Coach
Trusted Advisor to Senior Leadership Teams

Dr. Maynard Brusman is a consulting psychologist and executive coach. He is the president of Working Resources, a leadership consulting and executive coaching firm. We specialize in helping San Francisco Bay Area companies select and develop emotionally intelligent leaders.  Maynard is a highly sought-after speaker and workshop leader. He facilitates leadership retreats in Northern California and Costa Rica. The Society for Advancement of Consulting (SAC) awarded Dr. Maynard Brusman "Board Approved" designations in the specialties of Executive Coaching and Leadership Development.

“Maynard Brusman is one of the foremost coaches in the United States. He utilizes a wide variety of assessments in his work with senior executives and upper level managers, and is adept at helping his clients both develop higher levels of emotional intelligence and achieve breakthrough business results. As a senior leader in the executive coaching field, Dr. Brusman brings an exceptional level of wisdom, energy, and creativity to his work.” — Jeffrey E. Auerbach, Ph.D., President, College of Executive Coaching

For more information, please go to, write to, or call 415-546-1252.

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