Live By Listening

I do much of my coaching in my home office where my wife occasionally overhears my coaching conversations. She has learned to tell the difference between the levels of listening I use with clients. Like all of us, she wants me to really listen to her. She’s learned to know the difference and is no longer content when I am not listening deeply enough. If I don’t listen or jump to solutions too quickly, she gets frustrated and wonders why I can’t treat her like I do my clients. And if I apply listening skills that are too deep, she will tell me, “Don’t coach me, Dave.”

One of the best explanations of listening skills that I have encountered in my Coaching practice is the book Co-Active Coaching by Kimsey-House. Over the past year, the HGL coaches have been reading and discussing the key elements of coaching addressed in the book. I wanted to share with you what we’ve learned about listening:

Basic Listening

Listening at the most basic level, Level 1, is hearing through the filter of the listener’s own opinions, judgments, and attitudes. As they listen, the listener is preparing their response in a way that conveys how what they hear means to them, sometimes with a story of their own experience or a quick solution based upon that experience.

At this level, we hear what we want to hear and can often misjudge the speaker’s intent. This is the level where most people listen. We can all relate to conversations with our spouse or others we know well which have led to misunderstanding or an accusation of “Why don’t you listen to me?”  At this level, the speaker can feel frustrated and disconnected with the listener.

Speaker-Focused Listening

Level 2 listening is much more focused on the speaker, and the listener suspends his or her own opinions, judgments, and attitudes. The listener is not only hearing the words, but also the tone, pace, and feelings expressed. This type of listening generates empathy and collaboration.

Questions are asked by the listener to deepen awareness and connection with the speaker. Active listening techniques are used such as: paraphrase/telling back with statements like: “What I heard you say was …” and checking perceptions and reflecting back with statements like: “It sounds like you’re feeling …”.  At this level people feel really listened to and emotionally connected to the listener.

Intuitive Listening

Level 3 listening is using your intuition to discern more than the information gained through your senses. This is a level of listening that captures an awareness of the entire environment of the speaker, beyond just the words, tone, pace or even the feeling being expressed. It includes the energy that is being expressed and leverages intuition to combine information received through the listener’s senses. Through powerful questions, such as “What’s really important to you?” or “What’s motivating you?” the listener can tap into this deepest level of listening.

Coaches endeavor to spend their coaching time engaged in Level 2 and Level 3 listening. It’s on these levels where transformation can occur. When people feel really listened to, they see themselves more objectively and are able to step outside of themselves and the situation they are in to achieve breakthroughs in challenges they are facing.

In relationships that really matter, such as spouses, friends, clients, and significant others, listening skills can make or break the relationship.

Some people love coaching because it’s the only time they feel someone really listens to them. Do you have someone listening to you? Are you listening to others?

Post contributed by Dave Vogelpohl, HGL Coaching Catalyst.

How Healthy is Your Culture?


I believe that one of the primary, if not THE most important responsibilities of leadership is to create a CULTURE of health and vitality. We give an enormous amount of time on things that are ultimately superficial and often very little time on things that are at the core of creating a sustainable, successful organization. The culture we create through the systems we set up, either intentionally or unintentionally, will determine whether we manage by crisis, by dysfunction, or manage by pre-determined values and principles. Here are some of the diagnostic questions we should ask about our organization:

Do we address issues, or do we let them remain unspoken?

Do we respond to or address issues with honesty and with forthrightness, or are others often wondering what we “really” think?

Do we take ownership for things gone wrong, or do we make excuses or pass blame?

Do we make it safe and acceptable for people to offer their opinions, or do we label them as trouble-makers or not being “team” players?

Do we allow input and ideas to flow bottom up from those who are actually going to carry the work out?

Do we do constant, ongoing, ruthless assessment of our systems, programs and performance or only when a glitch happens?

Do we allow dysfunctional individuals to hijack our meetings, thwart our efforts and thereby rule our organizations, or do we confront unhealthy team members and hold them accountable to healthy interaction?

Lastly, and most difficult, do we confront our own toxic fears, behaviors and attitudes that are contaminating our organization, or do we give ourselves a pass because we’re the boss?

The answers to these questions will probably not help your church or organization explode with growth. But they just make help keep it from imploding one day. And for many of us, they will take care of most of what is really keeping us up at night!

Patrick Lencioni’s book “The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything” is a good read for continuing this thought. Go be a thermostat for YOUR culture!


Post contributed by Steve Chiles, Senior Pastor at the Shartel Church of God in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and Team Leader for the 2016 Leadership Network Gathering.