Learning to Listen from Within

I often find myself being taught some of life’s greatest lessons by those in my own family, and they can often be implemented within leadership. This one I want to share with you is about my daughter and her collegiate journey. When it comes time to send our kiddos off to college, I feel like I speak for most parents when I say that we always have an input or two. My husband had suggested a school to our daughter that he really thought would be a good fit for her, and in the end, that was the college she chose. She said she genuinely wanted to go, and we were rooting for her all the way! But just like in the workplace, some decisions don’t always pan out the way we hope they would.

After a while, our daughter became miserable at this school, and it started taking a toll on her mental health. Try as she might, she kept trying to sit in the ‘muck’, as I like to call it, but nothing about the situation ever became positive. She didn’t like the atmosphere or how she had to travel the entire day to get home, which eventually manifested into her wanting to transfer to a school back home. In short, before that last decision, she didn’t listen to herself well.

Self-Evaluation & Awareness

After our conversation, the idea dawned on me that many times, in whatever we do, we make decisions based on the pressure we feel from someone else’s opinions or journey. As a result, we also fail to listen to ourselves. So as we go into this second quarter, I wanted to look at this lesson from a corporate perspective. Think about your organization and evaluate where you’re at. Sometimes a bit of recalibration time and self-assessment can go a long way. Not only for yourself but for added benefits to your employees.

The first step is to guide them through being able to self-evaluate and self-assess. Self-evaluation is the ability to examine yourself to determine how much progress you have made. It requires employees to monitor their own abilities and evaluate strengths and weaknesses. It puts employees largely in charge of their own development. 

As human beings, we have to be able to listen to ourselves before we can actively listen to those around us. Whether that’s in the workplace or at home with our family.

When employees feel heard through the self-evaluation process, they are more likely to listen to feedback from their leaders, and the door opens for a two-way discussion. One of the most important aspects of self-assessment to employees is the autonomy it provides. The process discourages micromanagement from team leaders, which allows employees to be freer in making their own decisions about how they go about their responsibilities and are happier, more committed, more productive, and more loyal.

Through self-assessment, employees can:

  • Feel more engaged in the appraisal process
  • Gain greater insights and set future goals for improvement
  • Feel more confident about their abilities
  • Enhance capacity building (learn to make corrections quickly)
  • Select training programs that are most suited to the needs
  • Develop an inquiring mind for problem-solving
  • Become more accountable
  • Feel more valued
  • Feel more motivated to learn new skills

Great assessment questions for your employees: 

Where have you excelled?

What achievements are you most proud of?

Where do you feel you need more support?

What goals do you wish you could have accomplished?

What would help you to accomplish these goals?

What do you most like about your job?

What do you most dislike about your job?

What improvements could be made to make your role easier?

What components of your job would you like to eliminate and why?

What career goals do you hope to accomplish in the next three years?

Remember that this reflection period includes you, too. Leaders should participate in this exercise just as often as their team does. So really dig deep and listen to the truth within yourself, just like you expect from your people. You’ll get extremely valuable answers out of these questions if you and your employees can be openly honest. Self-evaluating will help you pinpoint if you’re making these choices because it’s what YOU genuinely want for your people and your organization or due to the influence of another party.

Don’t Do It Alone

After you’ve evaluated, check your gut and tune into your self-awareness, employees likewise. What is your gut telling you about where you’re moving everyone forward? How do you feel about the culture you’ve created? How comfortable are your employees in said culture? If you can’t seem to find an answer to these questions, take some time to meditate or be in a quiet place. Finding the time to quiet ourselves and remove the noise that can manipulate our decision-making skills will help you find a better solution of moving from where you’re at, to where you want to be.

Another option is to consider getting an accountability coach or check in with another leader outside of your organization. This is a great objective way to help you make decisions based on logic and facts by removing the emotion. Similar to making a pros and cons list (which you just may do with a coach), this will help you be able to look at both sides of the coin with an unbiased opinion.

The Wrap Up

Like always, my children teach me just as much as I teach them – in this case listening to ourselves and creating the solutions within ourselves. So when my daughter came to me and said that she needed to listen to herself and make her own decision about finding a new school to attend, we fully supported her. I was proud that she listened to herself and assessed her situation to know that instead of staying the course, she needed to move herself into an area where she could succeed instead of believing she failed. There is always success to be found inside of us. We just have to be willing to listen closely so we can understand ourselves and act on it.


Heather Younger
Heather Younger
Heather Younger gets it. As a best-selling author, international TEDx speaker, podcast host, facilitator, and Forbes Coaches Council coach, she has earned her reputation as “The Employee Whisperer”. Her experiences as a CEO, entrepreneur, manager, attorney, writer, coach, listener, speaker, collaborator and mother all lend themselves to a laser-focused clarity into what makes employees of organizations and companies – large and small - tick. Heather has facilitated more than 150 workshops, reaching +100 employers and their employees. Her motivation and philosophy have reached more than 20,000 attendees at her speaking engagements on large and small stages. Companies have charted their future course based on her leading more than 100 focus groups. In addition, she has helped companies see double-digit employee engagement score increases through the implementation of her laws and philosophies. She has driven results in a multitude of industries, including banking, oil & gas, construction, energy, and federal and local government. Heather brings a tenacious and inspirational outlook to issues plaguing the workforces of today. Her book “The 7 Intuitive Laws of Employee Loyalty” hit the Forbes Must-Read list and is a go-to source for HR professionals seeking insight into their organization's dynamics. Heather’s writing can also be found on her blog at EmployeFanatix, as well as articles in Forbes, Huffington Post, Thrive Global, American Express Open Forum, and more. Coupled with her Leadership with Heart podcast, weekly videos, and employer newsletters, Heather stays connected to organizations long after she leaves the stage or conference roomWhen all the emails are returned and the mic is turned off, and Heather acts as co-manager of her busy household in Aurora, Colorado with her husband, where they oversee their four children.

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  1. This is a great piece, Heather, especially in how you presented the applications for the workplace. Much is needed there and as patterns are changed, so are their lives changed elsewhere in beneficial ways. Leaders do need to participate as well, leading by example and ascending in their own leadership capability by doing so.

    On another note, your mention of the inner voice took me to another place. A quite place where that voice seems ever-present when we proffer questions and become still, listening and perceiving in anticipation. Perhaps it’s a process we all do at times, yet the disciplined practice of it can yield so much more. Your closing reminded me of how focus of attention, intention and interaction is the real game we play with ourselves as we grow in our ability to lead our lives, let alone lead others.

    Knowing most folks of our ilk tend to enjoy conversations that invite further consideration. I invite you to take a deeper dive into the inner voice with me, via a conversation with Dr. Jeffrey Mishlove from a few years ago.

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