ARE YOU HARD OF HEARING? It Impacts Your Coaching


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We spend lots of time and money refining our communications styles, learning how to connect with and communicate more effectively with our customers. There are powerful assessment tools that let us understand the communications styles of our people. We may even understand our own communication style, using many of the same tools. However, it’s odd, but it seems when we get into conversations with our own people, even with all this knowledge and training, our inability to hear and really listen impacts our ability to coach.

As I’ve mentioned in this series, effective coaching is a conversation, it’s a dialog about performance and professional development. Too often, the focus is, “Are they getting it, do they hear what I am saying, do they get my coaching?” We obsess with the abilities of our people to listen and understand what we are saying. Yet we forget about ourselves and whether we are truly hearing what our people are telling us. If we are not hearing what is intended, or worse yet, if we aren’t listening, our coaching will not be effective. It may, in fact, be completely wrong.

“Hearing” is a funny thing. We are all wired differently. I could be listening closely to a conversation and interpret what is being said completely differently than someone else listening to the same conversation “hears.” We could both be highly trained in listening, using the best active listening skills, observing body language, observing and paying attention to the words someone is saying; yet each of us could have entirely different interpretations. The reason is each of us is “wired” to hear and respond differently. In listening, we apply our own filters, processing, and experience base, and often react in appropriately. Our reactions are driven by our interpretation and not by what is being said.

This is the critical difficulty in effective coaching. Imagine that we are hearing and interpreting things based on our own filters and “wiring,” and the person we are coaching is hearing and interpreting things based on their filters and “wiring.” It’s no wonder so much coaching is ineffective—there’s tremendous room for misinterpretation and misunderstanding. It’s absolutely natural in all communications, we each apply our own filters. We tend to be very attentive to making sure what we say is being heard—after all we have a tremendous vested interest in our own words. We tend to be less attentive to the fact that we are applying our own filters to what we are hearing.

To be effective as coaches, we not only have to understand how our people hear and interpret things—tuning what we say so they can hear as we intended it. We also have to watch ourselves to make sure we are hearing and interpreting what is being communicated the way it was intended.

The same assessment tools we use to understand how our people communicate—what their style is, how our customers communicate, can be very powerful in helping us understand how we “hear,” and what we might watch for in how we are hearing. Try them!

To be a great coach, make sure you aren’t HARD OF HEARING.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


  1. Once again I really liked your atricle. As a trainer and manager I have taught listening skills for many years. Many times managers forget that their poeple are their “customers”. If they would remember this fact they might become better listeners.
    We all naturally listen to respond instead of listening to understand – that is one of the ways we are wired physically. Our brains work must faster than we talk. It is critical for managers to retrain themselves to listen to understand – and that is not easy.
    As you mention, active listening is hard in itself and then you always have both physical and psychological barriers that get in our way. Active listening is physically hard and that is why most people are not good at it. When done correctly your heart rate goes up, your breathing increses, and you start to perspire.
    to be a great coach you must become a great lisener – not easy!

  2. Thanks for continuing to contribute to the discussion Mike. Listening–and knowing that we put our own “spin” on what we hear is very difficult. Knowing this and listening to what is being said is critical to communications effectiveness, regardless of it is with our customer, our people, or anyone else.

    Thanks for joining the discussion!


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