The Art of Listening

Dear Coach,

Based on 360° input, the leader I’m working with lacks good listening skills. What do you suggest?

Best regards,


Dear Edward,

In the world of leadership, there’s a universal truth I’ve observed time and again — everyone could stand to brush up on their listening skills. It’s not just a leader thing, it’s a human thing. But as individuals climb the corporate ladder, their ability to truly listen often takes a hit. Why, you ask? Well, who in their right mind would interrupt the boss mid-flow, or dare suggest they’ve been hogging the conversation?

That’s why, as part of my coaching with every leader, we shine a spotlight on enhancing listening skills. Here are two techniques I swear by:

The Period-Question-Mark Ratio

This is all about breaking the pattern of speaking more than listening. The Period-Question-Mark Ratio encourages leaders to take a step back mid-conversation and ask themselves, “What’s my current ratio? For each statement I make (the period), how often am I posing a question (the question mark)?”

I usually recommend aiming for a one-to-one ratio. Even if they don’t always hit the mark, the very act of monitoring this ratio nudges leaders towards turning monologues into dialogues, carving out space for others to contribute.

The EAR Method

Next up is a specific listening technique I teach, aptly named the EAR Method. It follows a sequence — Explore, Acknowledge, Respond (E-A-R).

“Explore” refers to asking open-ended, curiosity-piqued questions that demonstrate a genuine desire to learn. “Acknowledge” involves ensuring the other person feels understood. Note that it’s about them feeling heard, not you. Finally, “Respond” is your chance to share your thoughts, but only after you’ve explored and acknowledged them.

While the concept is straightforward, mastering it is anything but. Expect your coachees to make errors during generation. Practice, including role-plays with the coach, will be very helpful.

So I challenge you to put these techniques into action starting today. Pay attention to your Period-Question-Mark Ratio. Practice the EAR Method in your next conversation. And most importantly, keep at it. With persistence and a little self-awareness, you’ll soon see the transformative power of improved listening skills.

So, are you ready to become a better listener?


JathanJathan Janove is a Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaching Master Coach and Practice Leader. You can learn more about him here. If you have a question you’d like him to address, please email us at



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