Listening Pays

Listening Pays by Rick Bommelje
Rick Bommelje, Ed.D., CLP

One of the questions on a 360
0 Listening Behavior Assessment for leaders asks observers: What suggestions do you have for her/him to improve their listening behavior? Following are a few actual responses:

  • Interrupting is one of his worst behaviors, so he should listen fully before giving his input.
  • She can be very black and white in how she looks at things and it can sometimes come across very strongly in her reactions when it might not be necessary.
  • He should show patience with those who do not express themselves in the way he would want. Also, sometimes he doesn’t respond with the familiar "social niceties" that a speaker expects, i.e. nodding and making eye contact.

Consider the negative impact that these non-listening behaviors might have on the leaders’ immediate employees, teams, and organizations. Imagine the costs -- loss of morale, productivity, trust, respect, credibility and performance, just to name a few. The bigger question is:
What would others say about your listening behavior?

Many leadership and business books declare that listening is a vital skill. Yet, most people have very little formal listening education. Unfortunately, the phrase ‘active listening’ has been overused and typically refers to behaviors such as give eye contact, nod and pay polite attention. The reality is that listening is so much more.


The LISTENING PAYS is a practical tool that can yield tremendous value if practiced consistently. Framed in the shape of a hexagon, it consists of the six specific strategies that occur in listening behavior, with Build a Solid Foundation as the base strategy.

The second strategy is Develop Healthy Habits, which includes the Top 5 listening habits: 1. Find something of interest in the message; 2. Concentrate on content of the message first, and the delivery of it second; 3. Focus on the main point of the message versus just the facts; 4. Take notes, written or mental; and 5. Pay genuine attention.

Take 100% Responsibility is the third strategy, which emphasizes the level of commitment that it takes to listen effectively.

Strategy 4,
Ditch the Distractions, reveals what you can do to remove both internal and external distractions that can dominate your life.

Strategy 5 is
Lead Your Emotions, which offers specific steps to combat emotional triggers and hot buttons. For many people, leading their emotions is not easy; however, it makes a huge difference in relationships.

The sixth strategy is
Take Meaningful Action, prompting you to intentionally respond to create value. In order to accomplish this, it requires a combination of knowledge, skills and attitude.

Each of the strategies is connected together and the atom in the middle represents energy –
your energy – flowing continuously through them. The strategies are constantly in motion. When combined together, these six strategies can help you achieve success in all areas of your life. Essentially, the quality of your listening is equal to the quality of your life.

Listening is at the heart of every success that you, your team and your organization will accomplish. As all highly effective leaders know, it is the many small steps that make the long journey productive. The main point is…
Listening Pays! – IF you commit and make the investment.

1-18-11 Rick Bommelje-1215
Rick Bommelje is a Professor in the Communication Department at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida.  He teaches courses on Listening and Leadership and was selected as one of the top 300 college professors in the nation by the Princeton Review.  A past president of the International Listening Association, he was inducted into the Listening Hall of Fame in 2011.  Rick is co-author of the pioneering book on listening leadership, Listening Leaders and his latest book is the business fable, Listening Pays.