Readers of our last blog will remember that we consider listening to be the first of the four essential pillars of good leadership.  We were delighted to come across this wonderful poem by Ralph Roughton recently as it captures perfectly why listening is one of the fundamental leadership skills.

Written from the point of view of the talker rather than the listener, he sets out one by one the most common pitfalls that we fall into which prevent us from listening properly, and beautifully elucidates the negative effect which results.

So many of our natural human instincts get in the way of being a good listener: to give advice, to judge, to solve problems, to contradict, to interrupt, and perhaps even more so when we are in a leadership role. The temptation can be so strong to jump in and take control, when actually we are being asked to “please listen and just hear.”

On Listening by Ralph Roughton

When I ask you to listen to me

And you start by giving advice,

You have not done what I asked.


When I ask you to listen to me

And you begin to tell me

Why I shouldn’t feel that way,

You are trampling on my feelings.


When I ask you to listen to me

And you feel you have to do something

To solve my problem,

You have failed me,

Strange as it may seem.


When you do something for me

That I can and need to do for myself,

You contribute to my fear and inadequacy.


And I can do for myself.


I am not helpless.

Maybe discouraged and faltering,

But not helpless.


But when you accept as simple fact

That I do feel what I feel,

No matter how irrational,

Then I can quit trying to convince you and

Get about the business of understanding this irrational feeling.


And when that’s clear, the answers are obvious

And I don’t need advice.

Irrational feelings make sense

When we understand what’s behind them.


Perhaps, that’s why prayer works, sometimes, for some people…

Because God is mute, and

He or She doesn’t give advice or try to fix things.

God just listens and lets you work it out yourself.


So please listen and just hear me.

And, if you want to talk,

Wait a minute for your turn,

And I’ll listen to you.


Building your leadership skills

There are several important lessons in listening embedded in this poem, and anyone looking to enhance their leadership skills should take note:

  1. Listen without speaking

Resist the urge to talk, or even think. Quieten your mind, put away all distractions and just focus on the person speaking.

  1. Do not give advice

If someone asks you to listen, that’s all you need to do.  They have not asked you for advice or help. The talker will find their own solutions if you let them get there on their own. If you are invited, try sharing from personal experience rather than giving advice. After all, which of us likes being told what to do?

  1. Do not judge or contradict

Try not to jump to conclusions or form an opinion. Ask for clarification if necessary, but don’t put forward your views (unless asked).

  1. Do not be afraid of silence

Silence is THE best question. It is also the space where understanding can be found. Try to get comfortable with pauses and don’t let yourself jump in to fill them.

By enhancing your ability to listen in this way, you will deepen your connection with others, bring out the best in your team and, as a consequence, enrich your leadership skills.

More tips on listening can be found here, or of course you can contact us at any time for further support. After all, iTS Leadership!