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The Grossman Group CEO and communications expert David Grossman shares his insights on the importance of meaningful leadership communication in today’s business climate. With high level tips on engagement and connection, insights into employee motivations and behavior, and firsthand stories from the frontlines of America’s leading companies.

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What Leaders Miss When They Don't Listen (and What to Do About It)


Listening EarLeaders, in particular, often forget to listen, and fall into the trap of controlling the message without real, meaningful communication. Here’s what we’re missing when we don’t listen:

  • The opportunity to learn something new
  • Insights that may help us be more effective
  • Context, which helps us make sense of situations
  • An alternative perspective
  • The opportunity to demonstrate respect for another person (whether you agree with that person or not)

Yet the reality is that the best communicators—and leaders—spend much of their time observing, absorbing and really listening to—and hearing—their employees. Listening can be as easy as 1-2-3.  Here are a few strategies for becoming a more effective communicator through better listening:

  1. Stop talking.
  2. Suppress the inclination to think about what you are going to say next.
  3. Don’t multitask; focus closely on the speaker.
  4. Ask questions to ensure you understand.
  5. Paraphrase what you’re hearing.
  6. Listen with an open mind, not for what you want to hear.
  7. Pay attention to what might not be said.

I think one of the greatest skills that any leader can master is becoming comfortable with silence. Many people view silence as empty space that needs to be filled, but when leaders learn to accept it—and work with it—they open the doors for others to speak and be heard. The result is often unexpected and enlightening connection and a wealth of information.

-- David Grossman




This article has several bits of good advice, but it's written with the premise that the organization's leadership has cultivated a culture of open and honest communication. When leaders are not good listeners this is often not the case. Employees are hesitant to share their best insights and experience because thier frustrated with getting ignored or cinical that leadership will give thier comments any real consideration.
Posted @ Friday, September 21, 2012 9:53 PM by Michael
As usual David you cut to the quick of the situation. The best leaders I have encountered have always been active listeners. Michael's point of cultures of open and honest communication is a critical issue but often the people who put people in leadership roles because of their technical expertise not their communication skills need to take some of the blame. At least communication effectiveness training should be part of the deal. Leaders are often the weak link in the whole communication chain where middle management often cop the bad rap.
Posted @ Sunday, September 23, 2012 7:09 AM by Peter Fulcher-Meredith
Great insights and advice! I think good listening starts with being able to listen to one's own wise inner-voice. Often times, the subconscious mind plays the same records of limiting beliefs that were at one time useful but now just create a distraction away from one's intuition. Most of us have them but are totally unaware. When we quiet/eliminate those records, it is easy to hear one's own guidance and to listen from the heart to what others are saying, truly connecting from that authentic place. This authentic exchange is powerful, efficient, and expansive.
Posted @ Tuesday, September 25, 2012 11:46 AM by Laura Palmer
Thanks everyone for your feedback on the post, I always enjoy hearing others examples and thoughts. Listening, is a skill that all leaders can continue to work on. The goal of listening is to better understand where someone is coming from, and get the information you need to take the next step and/or make a smart decision.
Posted @ Monday, October 01, 2012 9:58 AM by David Grossman
A great post. I do have one question for you David. One of the points you made was... 
"Pay attention to what might not be said." 
I love it! 
Could you give your readers some input on how this might be done? Do you have some basic questions you run through to ensure the bases are being covered?
Posted @ Thursday, November 08, 2012 1:52 PM by Brian
Great question! What can one do then to better listen for what’s not being said? 
- Be quiet and listen to understand (don’t think about what you will say next) 
- Be curious. If you’re not a naturally curious person, think to yourself, “I’m curious about what this person has to say.” 
- Listen for the underlying issue or emotion (a fight about dirty clothes on the floor isn’t about the clothes on the floor; there’s a larger issue at play) 
- Ask clarifying questions to ensure you understand before moving on from a topic. Listen and clarify. Repeat, as needed. 
- Trust your gut if you’re feeling like you’re not getting the complete story. 
- Notice any body language changes (i.e. change in position, facial movements), which may be a cue or clue to ask more questions 
- Listen for any emotional clues that signal there might be more to the story 
- When we communicate effectively, we understand where another person is coming from. If you don’t understand where someone else is coming from (you don’t need to agree with them), it means you need to ask more questions 
- Ask yourself in your head during a pause in the conversation: “What’s not being said?” 
There’s not a formula to learn how to listen for what’s not being said, and it will vary based on the person, relationship, or situation. That said, the strategies above are worth considering. 
Posted @ Thursday, January 17, 2013 3:30 PM by David Grossman
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