This is a guest post from Bernard Donkerbrook:

The term you used in your last post, "deep listening", in context with employers (bosses mostly) Bernard-donkerbrook connecting/communicating with employees on a personal level, made a big impact on me because this is such a compelling theme for me in working with clients or mentees at I understand that you are making a distinction between "deep listening" and "active listening".

My view of "active listening" is that it is a mechanistic process, as one of a set of listening tools/techniques. Active Listening is for me synonymous with paraphrasing, conveying back what you thought you just heard, both in content and in emotions/feelings.  I love the concept of 'deep listening' embodying caring, genuineness, empathy, self-awareness and  being other-person focused. A tall order for many managers, sadly.

I believe that a manager's core listening should include these quite-teachable skills:

  • Nonverbal attending
  • Open-ended questions
  • Reflecting feelings
  • Listening for understanding
  • Active listening/paraphrasing
  • Supportive communication/supportive feedback in the moment

The ability of managers (I use that phrase generically to represent any management level person who has people working for them, such as supervisors, executives, and other leaders.) to recognize, appreciate, and demonstrate that they (and even the company) personally value what employees are doing and contributing (and learning, growing, exploring, etc... all these kinds of things) is powerfully influenced by a manager's "deep listening".  'Deeply listening' is a way of demonstrating respect and genuine appreciation for another person. The list goes on and on of the power, influence, and value of deeply listening to people, one-by-one.  And the good news is that good listening skills by a manager can be learned! 

"People honor a culture that honors them."

Deciding as a manager to really deeply listen, deciding to be authentic and genuine in understanding what people are saying who work for you (and with you), is a powerful way to build relationships that are so critical in getting business done and in demonstrating that you value and appreciate employees as individuals and as contributors to meaningful work.