Levels of Listening

Refresher Tools for Leadership Coaches

Levels of Listening

Levels of Listening comes straight out of my Coaches Toolkit. In the Coaching Master Class training I teach that asking good purposeful questions can only be effective if you couple it with good listening. As you move into the heart of the coaching session (GROW) you need to raise your listening from the more casual day-to-day style of listening to another level. You need to consciously throw a switch in your mind and become aware of not only what your Coachee is saying, but also the emotion and meaning behind their words. And maintain this elevated conscious state throughout the session. I cover two raised levels of listening: Active Listening and Deep Listening. Read more about them ….

Why Casual Listening Won’t Work in Coaching

Before we look at Active Listening and Deep Listening, let’s look at Casual Listening. This is the type of listening you will use most of the time in casual social conversations with others. There is a natural flow backwards and forwards. You are able to combine thinking, observing, listening and talking. This means you can easily drift in and out in your attention and understanding. And you’ll need both of these skills as a Leadership Coach. You’ll need to be both Present and Curious.

What is Active Listening?

In Active Listening you will put in more effort than in Casual Listening to stay focussed on what the Coachee is saying and the understand the meaning of what they are saying. You will make a mental note of key facts. Continually confirm you are listening with appropriate words, expressions or gestures. Listen not only to what the Coachee is saying, but also to how they say it and what they don’t say. Maintain an open and positive atmosphere which encourages the Coachee to expand on issues and express themselves clearly and comprehensively. Finally, check your understanding with them on key points, summarise your understanding and give them feedback on what they have said.

There is more about the six approaches to Active Listening in ‘Tools – Levels of Listening’ in the Coaches Toolkit. The six approaches are: Verbal and non-verbal affirmation; Hearing beyond the words; Reflection; Clarifying; Encouraging; Summing up and Feedback.

What is Deep Listening?

Deep Listening goes beyond what is possible to achieve with normal listening. It involves listening from a deep, receptive and empathetic part of yourself to ensure you tune in to the subtleties of meaning and intention of your Coachee. You are more likely to use Deep Listening as a Coach when your Coachee has taken the initiative in the conversation and has embarked on a productive monologue to express themselves and explore a subject in depth. As a Coach your role is to use the opportunity to tune in to deeper meanings from the Coachee – many of which will be unintentional – as they release their innermost thoughts and feelings.

You will find a great tool called FOFI for supporting Deep Listening in ‘Tools – Levels of Listening’ in the Coaches Toolkit. FOFI stands for Factors; Opinions; Feelings; Insights.

What are the Pitfalls to Avoid?

Here are 6 pitfalls to avoid when listening:

Assumptions. Coming to the conversation with predetermined attitude and assumptions about the Coachee or the subject matter to be discussed.

Jumping Ahead. Developing your own response or next question while listening.

Organising. Completing the Coachee’s sentences – either in words or in your own thoughts.

Jumping to Conclusions.  An extension to Organising. That happens when you choose to act on limited information instead of searching for more. 

Selectivity.  This occurs when you listen only to what you want to hear. You might filter in or you might filter out.

Disengaging. Disengaging from the conversation and using disrespectful body language.

Author: Trevor Sherman

Trevor Sherman: Author, Blogger and Coach. What do I do? I develop leadership training material and personal learning modules. I am the owner and operator of this Blog. I coach senior executives for their development and role transition. I am based in Northamptonshire UK and operate globally - in person and through technology.

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