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The Art of Listening and it's Role in Change Management

The Art of Listening and it's Role in Change Management

A recent survey by the International Coach Federation (ICF) and Human Capital Institute (HCI) has examined the role of coaching in change management initiatives. Coaching activities with a professional coach practitioner are rated as the most helpful in achieving the goals of change management initiatives.

Communication was in the top three words associated with unsuccessful change management as it was in the top three words associated with successful change management. At least 50% of communication is listening and it strikes me that this important coaching skill will have maximum impact during times of uncertainty, fear and resistance.

In an ideal world, organisations would be able to offer one-to-one coaching to everyone going through change as well as train their managers as coaches. Unfortunately, this is not the reality. However, if leaders want to improve the chances of leading their workforce through change, they could do worse than developing their listening capabilities.

When was the last time you listened, really listened, to someone? As a coach, we are trained to maintain the highest quality of listening for our clients. The first line in Nancy Kline’s “Time to Think” is “Everything we do depends for its quality on the thinking we do first. Our thinking depends on the quality of our attention for each other.”  In order to help people process change and figure out how they will best navigate it, we need to give them our full attention. This will quickly impact their engagement, motivation and performance.

Here are my top 5 tips for active listening:

  1. Turn off your own internal dialogue. Silence the voices that are distracting you with questions about what to have for supper, whether to email your client, etc. Really, truly focus on what the other person is saying.
  2. Keep external distractions to a minimum. Where possible, set up the environment to minimise distractions and definitely TURN OFF YOUR PHONE!
  3. WAIT: Why Am I Talking? Take a breath and count to five before jumping in. Give the other person their thinking time.
  4. Show interest through body language. Let the other person know they have your full attention by leaning forward, nodding and maintaining eye contact.
  5. Listen with your whole self. Don’t just listen with your ears. Listen with your eyes, your brain, your intuition, your heart and your memory. Read signs and signals and call them out if you feel it will be beneficial.


Practise some active listening today – with your partner, friends, family. As well as helping people through change, it can have a massively positive impact on your relationships!

Dynami helps organisations embed coaching skills for leaders during times of change. I’d love to chat, so contact me:

HCI and ICF (2018).  Building a Coaching Culture for Change Management
Kline, N. (1999). Time to think: Thinking to ignite the human mind. London: Ward Lock

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