• Tony Richards

Talk Less, Listen More

Roughly 70 percent of an average working day is spent communicating in one form or another. Research shows that we spend about 9 percent writing, 16 percent reading, 30 percent speaking, and 45 percent listening.


With the largest percentage devoted to listening, you would assume this is something we would be good at. On the contrary, we are actually inefficient listeners. About only one fourth of what we hear, we comprehend and retain. Many factors contribute to this statistic; environmental distractions, delivery quality, information overload, etc. The most influential factor, however, is our intent. Are we listening with the intent to understand, or with the intent to reply?

As a leader, you need to be mindful of your intent, especially when you are listening to your employees. Leaders who listen with the intent to understand have the ability to breed loyalty. But those that are too busy formulating their own response to truly comprehend what their employees are saying, will create a culture where employees feel unheard.

While it is almost never listed on the job description, listening is a responsibility all leaders should develop. To create better listening skills, here are a few techniques:

“Engage and Expand.”

When an employee shares with you their opinions, encourage them to elaborate on their perspective. By actively engaging the employee, you show that you are truly listening and attempting to comprehend what they are saying. Using this technique will help to eliminate the potential for miscommunication.

“Create Mental Summaries.”

Our thought speed is greater than our speaking speed. This gap between what the person is saying and how quickly we comprehend their meaning leaves us with just enough time for our minds to drift to another topic. Instead of allowing this drift, counteract it by using the gap to mentally summarize what the person is saying, taking advantage of the extra time to fully determine their meaning with this simple technique.

“Wait, then reciprocate.” 

To counteract the potential of hi-jacking a conversation, count to eight before you respond. This technique allows you to give the person speaking time to fully communicate their thought. Not only will this build respect and credibility, but it will also give you the opportunity to fully hear and comprehend their response before formulating your own.

Leaders who listen with the intent to understand have the ability to breed loyalty.

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Communication is at the heart of all of our Leadership Development services. As you develop yourself as a leader, remember that one of the most important skills you can improve is your listening ability.Start by downloading our free Communication Pie Activity and see what your communication ratio on an average working day looks like.


To learn more about the Communication Pie and to see what ratio Tony’s pie looks like, listen to episode 10 of Better Than Before: Pie, Perfectionists, and the Peak End Rule.

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