The Importance of Deep Listening

Deep Listening conversation

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I was handed a shit sandwich. 

It was a software project for a government department, central to their mission, and it was months late, over budget, and not yet doing anything useful.  The list of problems was getting longer, not shorter, as the team trudged on. 

I had the job of turning it around. Make the magic happen, Iain, or there will be questions in Parliament.  After reviewing the code base, project notes and the rest, on Friday afternoon I walked out of my office. 

I spent three hours with the client – the Big Boss, his ops manager, and their IT manager.  I listened while they told me of their fears that they had wasted their investment to date, of the pressure their Minister was putting on them, of their growing sense that the software team just did not get what they were about, of their frustration that every time they tested a feature as requested, there were more bugs than ever. 

By Monday afternoon we had a turnaround plan. Because I listened with intent, they were able to trust that I was part of the solution, not just another part of the problem.  Two months later we flicked the switch to put the system into production mode. 

Listening is a superpower, and yet everyone can learn it.  It is the master-skill of our noisy times, and yet only 2% of leaders have any training in it.  We talk louder and longer at each other on all those “platforms”, but we understand each other no better.  If we do listen, we too often listen for the gap we can jump into, not for the unsaid words and hidden emotions.  

Want to learn how to communicate and collaborate at a new level?  Australian Oscar Trimboli has the tools for you: his Deep Listening book, podcast and training are available at He shows us the five levels of true listening, the four villains, and the costs of “listening” superficially. It’s real life jedi training. 

You’re welcome.  Enjoy. 

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