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If Listening is So Important, Why Don't Managers Do It?

Recently I read an article about listening. Although not written for a business audience, the article had me thinking about how I’ve been teaching about the importance of listening for decades. It seems that we should all know this by now… but we don’t.

Believe me, the irony is not lost on me that no one is listening when we teach about listening.

If we all know how crucial these skills are, then why is it so many managers don’t employ them?

The traditional business model of command and control has resulted in generations of high-intensity, Type A leaders who bark out orders to those who report to them. Even those managers who don’t have such strong personality traits emulate those ideas of being the commander and doling out tasks i.e. telling others what to do.

The fact is, many people in management spend far too much time talking, and not enough time listening.

Listening—really listening—to those who report to you can have its advantages:

  • Your reports are closer to the work, and the customer, than you are. Therefore, they gain insights into what works and what doesn’t that you may not have visibility into. These people understand the nuts and bolts of the job, and, as a result, can offer information that will lead to productivity and satisfaction gains.

  • Every conversation counts, and it’s even more at issue for manager-subordinate conversations. Employee engagement is positively affected when team members feel their managers hear and understand them. Your employees want to be listened to and taken seriously, and when this leads to higher commitment to organizations, it’s worth putting in the effort.

In these times of crazy workloads, Slack messages, Zoom meetings, and any number of distractions, it’s hard to give someone your full attention and listen. However, we have seen the shocking levels of stress and burnout, so it’s now more important than ever for you, as a manager, to make every conversation count.

I’ve been teaching active listening for years. It’s not new. Even after all these years, though, it seems people don’t know how to apply what they’ve learned about listening actively. So, I’m trying a different tack. Let’s take what we know and put a new spin on it for our pandemic world i.e. less business-y and more real:

In this modern world of pandemics, social justice, lockdowns, and social distancing, we need to connect more than ever. Make every conversation count, listen, and develop richer, more connected connections with your team.


C-Change Learning and Development will help your managers develop their listening and other soft skills. Reach out to Laura at

cover photo courtesy of Jacob Lund for The Noun Project


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