How Great Leaders Give People Their Full Attention


By Jas Singh

We’ve all been victim to it.

We’ve also all done it.

There’s nothing more frustrating. You’re ready for the big day. The big pitch. Or perhaps the interview you’ve been waiting for. May be your annual career review.

So you prepare. Know exactly what to say. Know exactly what you want. The big opportunity to show exactly what you are capable of.

Months, may be years of hard work at stake.

This is your big moment.

Yet for some reason things just don’t work out. To your massive annoyance, your boss seems distracted. Or may be your client has to rush because something has come up. Perhaps your career advisor seems more interested in where you brought your shoes from than the points you are trying express.

Man, is it frustrating. We’ve all had to experience our conversation being cut short by the ding of an email. Or when our boss “just has” to take that call. Or, the worst one of all…having to speak with someone who isn’t even listening to what you are saying…


Thank goodness for that, thought I’d lost you…

Sure, we all know our lives our stretched more than ever before. How we need to be able to multi-task to survive. How there is an overload of information.

How. Attention. Is. Falling.

But no type of technology will ever substitute human relationships. Relationships are essential for success in any calling.

Leaders are those rare individuals who put the needs of others first. Who live to serve. And an essential component of being able to serve others well is the ability to give someone your full and undivided attention.

To connect with them deeply.

To make them feel like at that moment, nothing or no-one is as special.

Something that is extremely difficult to do.

Here are some ways how great leaders give people their full attention.

They de-connect

The opposite of attention is distraction. In order to really give someone your full and undivided attention you have to de-connect as much from everything else as you can. Technology. Someone interrupting the conversation. Even perhaps going somewhere else from the noisy office.

There’s nothing more infuriating as speaking to someone who is constantly checking their phone. Or trying to express an important opinion when the other person has one eye (or even two) on the TV. Or needing to start over and over again because the door keeps getting knocked.

Great leaders do one thing at a time. And nothing is more important than listening to the needs of their followers.

They make sure that nothing can distract them.


They invest in quality time

Sure Jas I hear you say but I don’t have time for this. I manage a team of over 100 people. I am stretched to the max as it is. To spend this much time to hear my team out is impossible.

The great thing about relationships however, is that they are built more on quality than quantity. We all have people we have known for decades but don’t connect with. Yet with others, just a handful of precious experiences leads to long term trust and connection.

My best client is the CEO of a technology company in the US. I’ve probably met him know more than four or five times over eight years. But whenever we do meet up, he goes out of his way. Once he even booked the entire afternoon of so he could just show me around San Francisco. Although we speak much less often than many other people I speak with, I know he values me. And I really appreciate it.

Quality is more important than quantity. Rather than arranging weekly “catch-up-calls” or “briefings” great leaders understand that just like a good marriage they need to invest in quality time. By doing so they are valuing what their followers mean to them. They are interested in what they have to say.

Great leaders create great moments.

They never interrupt (OK, unless they REALLY have to!)

Perhaps the fastest way to undermine the importance of what someone has to say is to interrupt them. When stakes are high (and often also emotions) we all have a lot to say. Get our opinion across. And so we tend to butt in.

In my experience as a hiring specialist, I can say with confidence that one of the biggest reasons candidates fail telephone interviews is because they interrupt the interviewer. In a face-to-face situation body language has more influence and can rescue you, but over the phone it’s the fastest way for your resume to end up in the shredder.

Interruption makes others feel like what they have to say is not important. It can lead to resentment. Even outright offence.

Great leaders rarely interrupt. They give their followers full attention.

They hear them out.


No-one likes to be disregarded.

Great leaders understand that giving another person pure attention is a skill which is essential to leadership.

Hiring managers can gain much from hiring those people who hear others out and focus on building strong relationships.

Do you pay attention?

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