Listen First, Understand Second, Speak Third

The leadership principles that we are discussing were not “thought up” or designed by me, or any other person. They are laws of the human condition and our ability to build relationships with each other. They are both part of our subconscious and our consciousness.

Principles such as honesty, integrity and trust can move humans toward positivity or negativity. Using these principles when we interact as humans is the basis for listening, understanding and then responding.

I talk a lot about influence, because that is exactly what leadership is – INFLUENCE. There are many ways to influence another person, both positively and negatively. I have found that one of my favourite ways to influence another person, is for them to influence me first.

The best leaders I have ever worked with or been influenced by, make the decision to be influenced first before trying to influence the other person.

1. Why Be Influenced First?

The reason highly effective leaders like to be influenced first, is because they want to understand the other person. They don’t talk first, they don’t “but in” in the middle of the conversation, and they don’t tell them what they should or shouldn’t be doing…….They listen first, understand second and speak third.

When you are trying hard to see something, we sometimes strain our eyes so we can see it the best way we can. For example, seeing emotion on a person’s face and understanding how they feel.

When listening to a person, it is rare that we strain our ears to hear their words and understand their emotions and how they are feeling. This is something we should get better at.

When you have a one to one with your boss, do you feel important? Do you feel cared for? Do you feel listened to? If the answer is yes to all, then they are behaving like a true leader and letting you talk while they listen and understand you.

Or, does your boss control the one to one? Do they do most of the talking? Do they make you feel like you’re always being criticised? Do they seem like they don’t care? Again, if the answer is yes to all, then they are behaving like a boss, not a leader.

They are not listening to you at all and the one to one is all about them and not you. They don’t understand you because they are not listening. I have had many one to one’s like this in the past, and I am pretty sure you have too. It is not a nice feeling.

2. Putting Others Before Ourselves

In the book “Leader’s Eat Last” by Simon Sinek, he talks about this exact concept of leader’s putting their team and others first. He talks about his experience of spending time with the US Marines, and that listening, understanding and being influenced first is most important to the leaders.

When your friends or family talk to you, do you listen or talk over them? If you talk over them, they will feel undervalued. If you listen and understand them first then they will feel important, and appreciate that you have taken that time. What people say to you is serious and it matters, treat them that way.

When it comes to you then listening to your boss; if you have an issue, either at work or at home and your boss has listened to you first, understood what you are telling them, and let you finish what you want to say, then you are more likely to listen to your boss when it is their time to speak.

Whatever their opinion or advice is on what you have just told them, you are more likely to respect, take on board, and take action on. This is the relationship between a highly effective leader and their team members.

However, if you want to discuss an issue with your boss, and they take over the conversation within the first few minutes, and want you to understand their point of view first, then you are more likely to not listen because you are concentrating on getting your point of view across.

I have had many conversations like this with previous bosses in the past, and again it doesn’t make you feel good. They haven’t listened to you, and by consequence you haven’t listened to them either.

For a leader or a boss, this is very risky because it puts them in a position of not being respected. The team will in fact resent their boss because he/she doesn’t listen and gives the impression that they don’t care.

If your boss isn’t listening to you, and they don’t want to be influenced by you, is there anything you can do? Yes there is. They don’t realise that they aren’t influencing you either. Remember, LEADERSHIP IS INFLUENCE.

3. What Can You Do?

YOU BECOME THE LEADER, WHEN YOU ARE NOT THE LEADER. Change position with your boss and lead them instead of them leading you. We all want to increase our influence, especially with our boss, and this is an excellent way of doing that.

This is why you can be a leader in your current role, you do not need to be a supervisor or a manager to be a leader. Although, you do need to be a supervisor or a manager to be a boss. But, we don’t want to be the boss, we want to be the leader.

To be the leader of your boss, you just need to apply the leadership principles you are learning. You can apply them with your team mates, the outside organisation, at home with your friends and family. Now, all you need to do is apply these principles in exactly the same way with your boss.

4. What Would A Highly Effective Leader Do?

So, you’re now the leader, and your boss isn’t listening to you, what should you do? A highly effective leader would LISTEN FIRST, UNDERSTAND SECOND, AND SPEAK THIRD. A highly effective leader would listen to their boss and understand what it is that they are saying to them.

If you were to do that by being the leader, then when it is your time to speak, your boss is a lot more likely to listen to you, and take on board what you have said.

Then following that, you would feel like you have been listened to, feel cared for, and feel important to your boss.

As a team member learning to be a leader within their own team and organisation, this is one of the best leadership principles to try and master; listen first, understand second, and speak third.

By learning this leadership principle myself and trying to master it every day of my life, it really has improved my leadership and my life, both as an engineer, a manager and as a human being.

To be a leader within your team and your organisation, then building relationships with your team mates, your line manager and also their line manager is key.

When building on these relationships, ensure that you listen first, understand second, and speak third. In fact, use this principle with everybody you meet and want to build a relationship with, even beyond your career.

As humans we love to feel important, be the centre of attention and our own self-interest. This is where we get our motivation from to do something. However, when we listen to someone else then we have to give up our love of feeling important and we have to make the other person the centre of attention.

As a leader it is a requirement to put others before ourselves, and the more we do it, the better we become so keep practicing.

I welcome hearing how this post has influenced the way you think, the way you lead, or the results you have achieved because of what you’ve learned in it. Please feel free to share your thoughts with me by commenting below.

Check out my other articles by Clicking HERE

All the best,

Tom (Lead, Grow, Influence)

20 thoughts on “Listen First, Understand Second, Speak Third

  1. I really like this and think a lot of people should apply these principles to their everyday lives, it kind of makes you feel more valued and respected as an individual if you know you are been listened to and heard.
    I am definitely going to try and be more mindful to apply these principles both in my personal and business life.

    thank you for another great read Tom

    1. Hi Amy,

      Thank you for your comment. Really pleased you found the article valuable.

      I really do hope more and more people apply these principles to their lives. You are right, the feeling you get when you know you have been listened to and understood is in-describable.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  2. Hey Tom!

    Thank you so much for your article. It was a great reminder to me that I need to make sure my staff feel valued and listened to. Sometimes it is easy to react quickly or just make decisions because I’m in a hurry but I need to slow myself down.

    These values you talked about are what I strive to do every day (but don’t always follow). I’ve been stressed out with everything going on with the virus and probably haven’t been as mindful of my employees. I will be implementing these things today!

    Thank you again. It was a great read and a much needed reminder.

    1. Hi Marlena,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really pleased you found the article valuable.

      It’s great that you can take things from this and go back to your team and try to use what you learn. Everyone is getting stressed about the coronavirus (me included), so don’t beat yourself up about it. It is good to slow down and do a bit more thinking, and include our team before making any decisions.

      Let me know how you get on with what you implement and if I can help in any way then don’t hesitate to contact me.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  3. Very good thoughts

    These days people are not listening to understand by rather listening to talk and voice their opinion (I now I am one of these too and I need to change).

    You are right that a true leader listens more first then speaks so the other person can even respect them even more.

    1. Hi Thabo,

      Thank you for your comment. It’s great that you found the article helpful.

      You are right, a lot of people do listen to then talk, not understand. I have been guilty of this in the past too. We just need to consciously think about how we listen in the future, and what we are trying to achieve when listening.

      If we listen to understand then we are definitely showing respect, and we will receive respect in return.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  4. Hi Tom,

    Another brilliant article! I cannot agree more. Highly effective leaders should always try to listen and understand their employees before they take action and respond.

    Many leaders nowadays don’t have the time or the character to build a connection with their employees and this leads to misunderstandings in their communication.

    The best communicator is the one who listens, not the one who speaks!

    Thank you for your article.

    Kind regards,

    Yoana

    1. Hi Yoana,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really pleased you found the article valuable.

      You are so right, the best communicator is the one who listens. They also go beyond communication and move into connection.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  5. Excellent article, well written and great at informing us about the topic, have booked marked this page in fact !
    Many thanks Jason

    1. Hi Jason,

      Thank you for your comment and thanks for bookmarking the page.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  6. This is a powerful article with a lot of truth in it. These principles shouldn’t only be applied to these leaders, but these should be applied to our everyday lives to make us better people.

    1. Hi Joseph,

      Thank you for your comment. Really pleased that you found the article powerful.

      You are right, the principles I am sharing should be applied to our every day lives and all the people in our lives who we connect with. So, not just colleagues but friends and family too.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  7. Great article Tom. Good reminder for me to be aware and make sure that I am listening to my family at home. I and my husband has been working from home for over a month now and this article has made me asked myself if I had been a good leader at home and listening actively to my husband and my kids.

    “does your boss control the one to one? Do they do most of the talking? Do they make you feel like you’re always being criticised? Do they seem like they don’t care?” I’m like giggling as I am reading this as I’ve had this type of one on ones in the past. It’s truly important to behave like a leader, not a boss.

    Added “Leader’s Eat Last” by Simon Sinek, to my reading list. I have heard about Simon Sinek from the podcast that I listened to – Entreleadership podcast. Can’t wait to check out his book.

    Thanks for the wonderful tip on what I can do if my boss isn’t listening to me. You kept me engaged here. Great job!

    1. Hi Jen,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m so pleased that you found the article valuable.

      Thank you for sharing they kinds of one to ones you’ve had, because I know how that feels. I’ve had many of those kinds of one to ones which is making me smile too.

      Let me know what you think of the Simon Sinek book. It is a great book and I think you’re going to love it.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  8. I always love your articles. This is also a great one. I would add to be a good leader, is to be like a good father or a good mother. You need to guide your staff but you also need to make it clear about what you expect from them. Leaving them in the dark would just create chaos.

    1. Hi Ella,

      Thank you for your comment and your kind words. I’m really pleased that you found the article valuable.

      You are right, a good leader is like being a mother or father and you must care for your people in the same way as a mother or father would. Clear expectations from a leader is an absolute must.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  9. I really like this topic and think it is something that can apply to everyday communication skills. I remember in business communication class these same principals applied so I totally agree these are necessary skills for an effective leader to have. However, it is not something mos leaders, nor most of us on a day to day basis practice. Being able to listen before speaking can be very difficult and takes practice. However, I think with the right mindset and practice you will be able to implement these skills and the end results would be very productive employees or relationships. Thanks for the great article.

    1. Hi Melissa,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really pleased you found the article valuable.

      You are right, it takes practice to listen first, understand second, and speak third. We need to be practicing this ever day.

      If you need any help or advice on this topic then please don’t hesitate to contact me.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  10. Awesome article with quite a few good points. Thank you for sharing!

    I heard something quite a while ago that greatly impressed me. “Most people aren’t listening to hear what’s being said, they are just waiting to talk.” Now, I always remind myself in every conversation to actively listen to what’s being said and be sure that I’m not just waiting to talk. I’ve found that when I do this and when I make it clear that I’m listening and understand their point, they are much more likely to be receptive to what I have to say.

    1. Hi Cynthia,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really pleased you found it helpful.

      You are absolutely right, a lot of people do only hear what the other is saying so they can get their chance to talk. Whereas if they listened and understood then the conversation would be a lot better for both people.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *