Episode 8 – Five Levels of Listening

Your Sports Resource

In this episode, Lee Renata explains how listening impacts those around us whether it’s in our personal lives or in our work-life. People feeling like they are not heard or listened to is a common thread when they say communication is suffering. Lee explains the 5 levels of listening and offers some wonderful tips that you can implement today to be a better listener. You can find Lee’s book at http://www.successbeginswithlistening.com as well as being able to book a breakout session for your team.

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Introduction 00:00:00  

This is The Your Sports Resource Podcast, where each week we’ll discuss strategies that you can implement so the operations of your club support your coaching staff and the direction of your organization. We are committed to excellence in youth sports leadership. Let’s get started.

Renata 00:00:26  

Welcome everyone to our episode of Your Sports Resource Podcast his week. I’m happy to announce my first guest who is Lee Renata. Lee is a founder and head coach of the five levels of listening, which is a deep dive program that helps individuals, teams and executive groups understand if and how they actually listen. From there those who work with Lee understand how to improve their home and work life by applying principles to better listening.


Additionally, Lee is a leader in the change management and transformation project space, and she works with major organizations. So welcome Lee, thanks for coming on.

Lee 00:01:07 

Oh, thank you. Thank you for having me.

Renata 00:01:08

So, give us a bit of a background, how did you actually just get into the space of listening?

Lee 00:01:16 

Actually, it was my work with change and transformation that I often had to conduct these deep-dive interviews with people to entertain what actually was the real issues within the organization.


And it just kept coming up the same thing over and over again. It didn’t matter what title a person had, where they were in the organization. It just kept coming up that we’re just not listened to. We don’t have a voice, and if something is said we never see any action from it.


It was just so common all of the time that I started to realize that there were very different levels of listening that people were trying to articulate and say that these were the main issues that they were having that impacted their ability to perform their job. And so, I started writing.

Renata 00:02:03 

So, when you say they weren’t listened to. What was the most common behavior, was it that they were being dismissed or they had a hard time articulating what they were trying to say, so it could be consumed? Or maybe both. I don’t know.

Lee 00:02:19 

I think that the main issue they had was that the organization that they were in did not provide a platform for them to have that voice.

Renata 00:02:29 

Ah, I got you.

Lee 00:02:30 

Whether it was their manager or whether it was their team or their wider group, they didn’t feel they had a platform to have a voice that was going to be heard.

Renata 00:02:41


Lee 00:02:42  

So, if for example, if somebody spoke to their manager and they felt that they weren’t being heard or acknowledged for what they were saying. Then over time they just stopped talking.

Renata 00:02:53 


Lee 00:02:53 

They don’t say anything and that was the most common thing is that they just shut up.

Renata 00:02:56 


Lee 00:02:57 

You know, they just don’t say anything, and if you think about engagement surveys over the last 20 years or more communication is the top three issues that they have, and so yeah.

Renata 00:03:09 

Yeah, that doesn’t ever seem to change for some reason too.

Lee 00:03:11 

That doesn’t change.

Renata 00:03:15 

So, break it down for the audience. You said you just started writing and there’s five levels. So, what are those five levels?

Lee 00:03:24 

Sure, so the first level is somebody that doesn’t listen, and we’ve all experienced not being listened to and we all know how it feels.

Renata 00:03:32 


Lee 00:03:32 

You know, we everybody has had that situation. So that’s the first thing, when somebody does not listen.


The second level is somebody who listens but doesn’t hear a thing. So, they’re probably worse than the first because you know you’re talking to them, and you think they’re listening. And then when they speak back to you, they talk about something else or about themselves and you realize they weren’t listening to anything I was saying.

Renata 00:03:55 

Yeah, so is their mind off somewhere else?

Lee 00:03:58 

Yeah, their mind could be somewhere else or whatever it is, and so that’s level 2.


Level 3 is a really good listener, and we all have somebody in our lives that we can go to and talk to, and they will listen to us no matter what we’re saying. So those are the really good listeners, the active listeners.


Level 4 is about listening to what somebody is noting, and so this is about all the conversations that people have without at least saying any words. So, I’ll give you an example.


Quick example is I might come in and say, Hi Renata, how are you? Now, depending on your response will depend on what I will say next.


So, for example, you might say, fine, and I think oh great, that’s good. Or you might go fine! mean get out of my face, I don’t want to talk anymore, you know.


So, one word can tell a whole story.

Renata 00:04:43 


Lee 00:04:44 

And so, it’s about listening to what’s not being said and remember that we often do this. We want somebody to pick up what we’re trying to say to them so that they’ll ask us question.

Renata 00:04:54 


Lee 00:04:54 

And then level 5 is somebody that listens with understanding, so that’s taking in the environment of what they already know. But most of all, it’s about listening to their instinct. And now people call it different things. You know the inner voice, or, you know their gut feel. People have a whole lot of different names for it.

Renata 00:05:12 


Lee 00:05:12 

And everybody tells me a story of when they listen to their instinct and said thank goodness and everyone can tell me a story when they didn’t, I wish I had.

Renata 00:05:19 


Lee 00:05:21  

And so, until we learn to listen to our instinct, we can’t really, truly listen to others. We have to be able to learn to trust ourselves and trust what our instincts telling us.

Renata 00:05:30 


Lee 00:05:31 

Those are the five levels of listening.

Renata 00:05:33 

So, when you go into these organizations, I know you already said that the common thread is that they don’t listen, but when you’re working with these groups. Like where are they at on that level and or is there like any type of other common thread of behavior other than just the fact that they’re not listening?

Lee 00:05:54 

Oh yeah, there’s definitely either issues somewhere or productivity isn’t where it should be, or somebody just plain not happy?

Renata 00:06:02 


Lee 00:06:03  

And I often get called in when behavior changes have occurred. You know something is not going right. People aren’t attending meetings or there’s friction and underlying friction and usually is communication as we all know, and I’ll often find that and if I break it down someone just saying, you know, I’m always unheard. And so well, how can I contribute? How can I do my job? What do they expect from me?

Renata 00:06:30 


Lee 00:06:31 

You know. It really starts impacting performance in somebody’s well-being, it really does impact somebody’s well-being, yeah.

Renata 00:06:37 

Yeah, sure. So, when you find that thread and then you turn it back on either the team not listening or the manager, which is, I’m assuming is the more common scenario.


So, when you turn around to the manager and go really, the issue lies between how you pay attention and how you listen. How do they take that on?

Lee 00:06:59 

Uhm, actually to be honest, most will take it on, whether they do something about is the difference.

Renata 00:07:06 


Lee 00:07:07 

But most will take it on. But I always say to the person who feels they’re not being listened to. I always take it back to them and say you need to become a better listener for them to become a better listener.

Renata 00:07:19 


Lee 00:07:20 

And I always say to the person who doesn’t feel they’re being listened to is why aren’t they listening to you? You know what is going on in that person’s life that that that’s not happening.

Renata 00:07:30 

Can they answer that question?

Lee 00:07:32 

Not usually at the beginning, because the very first part of becoming a better listener is to become self-aware of how somebody listens themselves. You know, so I could, putting your hand up and saying you know my voice unheard, or you know nobody listening to me or when you actually haven’t really assessed how well you listen yourself.

Renata 00:07:50 


Lee 00:07:51 

Because I find often when people go through the five levels of listening that they realize when they listened better, others listen to them more.

Renata 00:08:00 


Lee 00:08:01 

And that’s a common thread that happens.

Renata 00:08:03 


Lee 00:08:04 

So, I always say you start with yourself and then let’s try and work on some other people you know, and they say, I often get emails saying when as soon as I changed others changed and so the problem solves itself.

Renata 00:08:16 

Yeah, okay, that’s great. That’s a perspective I would have considered because you know a lot in working with these Youth Sports Club, communication, as you would imagine, is an issue and I work with both coach owned and nonprofit parent run clubs, and usually there’s a discourse between the coaching team and the board. And then there’s also, not all the time, but some of the times in within the coaching staff. Some of the coaches, whether it’s part time or working with the younger ones, feel a disconnect in working with their head coach, and it all comes down to that communication. So that piece of advice that you gave of starting to change your own behavior in the way you listen will reflect on others.


So, what I’d like to do is just ask you to elaborate on that a bit. So, the audience today can understand, okay, I’m disconnected to my board or okay, I’m disconnected to the rest of my coaching staff. What can they adjust? What steps can they take to help change that behavior?

Lee 00:09:30 

Yeah, I think the key thing there is that we naturally try and think up ways of how do I get them to listen to me? You know they’re just not listening to me, so how do I get them to listening to them instead of actually looking and saying, you know, it’s a Stephen Covey thing. It’s seek to understand, seek to understand them to be understood. And so, I always say to people, make sure you fully understand where they’re coming from, but when it comes to the listening part, they have to become self-aware of how they currently listen.


And I would just say to people. Just take the conversation she had this morning or take the one that you had yesterday, and really break it down and really be honest with yourself and say how much did I actually listen to what they were saying without any agenda of my own. Strip away all of that

Renata 00:10:21 


Lee 00:10:23 

Just what were they saying and why were they saying it and what did they want me to do in that conversation and I teach people about their roles in a conversation. And when somebody is talking to you, they’ve already decided what role they want you to play.


So, whether it’s a coach or they want direction or they just want somebody to listen to them, they’ve actually already decided when they came to you. It’s up to you to quickly understand what that role is.

Renata 00:10:50 


Lee 00:10:51 

And that’s where I find the breakdown of a conversation often happens as somebody says something and the roles are totally different. And so again, I get emails saying oh just understanding my role has allowed me to have more in-depth conversations or more understanding in my conversations.

Renata 00:11:08 

That’s interesting.

Lee 00:11:10 

So, there’s many things they can do, but the first thing is to be aware of how you actually listen before you go on embark on a journey of trying to get other people to listen to, you become that self-aware, understand your role in a conversation.


If you’ve got a board speaking to you, the board is speaking from that point of view, and they’ve already decided what role they want you to play.

Renata 00:11:30 


Lee 00:11:31 

And it might be different than what you think, and which often happens. And a lady once said to me, my son rang me, and he was very upset. Something serious had happened at work. He was very upset, and he started talking and I was straight away went into mother role. I was going to solve the problem and he just said to me, mum mum Mum mum stop, just stop.

Renata 00:11:47 


Lee 00:11:53 

I just want somebody to talk to. And, and so she realized he just wanted her to listen. And so, she didn’t speak for the rest of the time, and he just said, thanks Mum, that’s all I needed.

Renata 00:12:06 


Lee 00:12:07 

And that was it and she said I realized that my mother role wasn’t always what they need.

Renata 00:12:14 


Lee 00:12:15 

You know, and that’s where we have got to remember, doesn’t matter what our role or title is. We actually have to understand our role in a conversation that might not be attached to our title.

Renata 00:12:25 

Right, it’s funny because you and I had that conversation before and now I catch myself with people that I’m or even my family. Maybe not so much with my spouse, but with my son, I’m like, am I listening or am I providing my feedback, you know?


So, I try to take a step back, and sometimes I have to ask the question because I’m the same way. I just want to rush in, and I want to solve it and move on.


So, in going through the evolving of your organization and having learnings from the people that you’ve worked with. What has been like a big Aha! moment for you?

Lee 00:13:08 

Okay, I think that’s a good question.


I think I’ve had a couple of Aha! Moments. So, let me tell you the experience I had that was very much Aha! Moment. I mean, other than I’ve learned so many lessons, especially about what it takes to write a book that’s not just, you know, sit down and write.

Renata 00:13:25 

Huh, really!

Lee 00:13:27 

I definitely had some big lessons on that, but I had Aha! moment some years ago. Many years ago, when I was doing a deep dive interview and I was sitting in a room with a glass wall so they could see me as they approached the room and I looked up and I saw my next person that I was interviewing heading towards me, and I could tell he was very very angry. And I thought oh okay, so this is what I’m going to have today, and he came into the room, sat down and was very angry, and sit there, you know, I don’t really want to be here.


I said, oh, you don’t have to be here. You don’t even have to have this interview so you can go if you want. And he goes, No! He was really angry and said no, just do it! I said, okay.

Renata 00:14:10 

So, is this an interview for a new job?

Lee 00:14:12 

No, this was an interview of an organization who had problems in a certain area.

Renata 00:14:18 

Oh, I got you, okay.

Lee 00:14:20 

And so, I was doing the deep dive interviews to find out what the problems actually were.

Renata 00:14:24 

Got you.

Lee 00:14:25 

And he was probably my 50th interview. You know so.

Renata 00:14:30 

That’s not good.

Lee 00:14:31 

And he said, he said to me, no, just do it. And so, when I asked him a question and he answered me, I went to write down some notes and that fired him up again. You know, I thought this is confidential and why are you writing that? So, I had to go over it again about why I was writing notes. And the half-hour interview turned into an hour and a half.

Renata 00:14:48 

Oh, wow.

Lee 00:14:49 

And he put his hand on at the end of the interview and said Lee, I just need to tell you what happened to me today and I said, okay. And he said I am at my limit. I’m a project manager, a big construction site. And I’m at my limit, and I wanted to come in here and I was going to tell this organization exactly what I thought of them.

Renata 00:15:13 


Lee 00:15:14 

And he says I walked over and when I saw you through the glass panel, he said you look nice. I didn’t want nice. He said I don’t want a nice person to interview me, and he said it really threw me and I couldn’t get myself under control at the first part of the interview. And I was really fighting to just keep myself together because I was fired up.


And I said, yeah, I saw that you were, and he said I feel like I’ve just been through a therapy session where the only thing missing Lee is you haven’t got a couch in this room.

Renata 00:15:49 

Oh, wow.

Lee 00:15:50 

And I said, do you need, I can get you assistance right now and he says, I feel like I can go and do my job. I just, having somebody listen to me. I feel like I can go back and do my job, but that experience has stuck with me over the years and it really, that Aha! moment was, I’ve got to do something about that.

Renata 00:16:12 


Lee 00:16:13 

I’ve got to find a way to teach people how to listen. We’ve got to all listen better. We cannot have people reach this point just because they felt that nobody was listening to them.

Renata 00:16:26 


Lee 00:16:27  

And so that was my sort of big moment that I have to do something about this.

Renata 00:16:32 


Lee 00:16:33 

And the passion for it just grew and grew and grew. Yeah, so that’s my A-ha! moment if I had one.

Renata 00:16:39 

And obviously, it’s being received well. Because you’re working with quite a few organizations to, you know, to work with their teams and the five levels of listening.

Lee 00:16:49 


Renata 00:16:50 

So, is there anything you want to extend to the audience today?

Lee 00:16:55 

Okay, do you want to have some tips on how to become a better listener?

Renata 00:16:57 


Lee 00:16:58 

I can’t, I can’t not do it for you. So let me give a couple of tips I’ve told you about, I’ve talked about the importance of understanding your role, but I want to talk about the one that’s most impactful that that people most contact me about. And that’s the art of pausing.


So, when we are in a conversation, we often find specially women. We often find that we’re thinking of a million other things as somebody talking to us.


You know, we’ve got to go home and pick up the groceries, we’re going to dinner, we got to do this, and then somebody talking to us, and we feel we’re listening about 100 things are going on in our mind. We have many distractions, but if we can learn the art of pausing, we will improve our listening just like that, so I’ll give you the example.


The art of pausing is when we find ourselves being distracted no matter what it is that we actually take up, and we pause, and that pause is invisible to the person that is speaking, but it’s just either take a breath or I see people like pinch their fingers, you know, just as something physical just to get their mind shifted back on the conversation.


So, as I’m not saying, you know, say oh sorry, can we stop the conversation? I just need to pause for a moment. It’s not that. It’s just about taking a breath and getting our minds focused back on the conversation.


And let me tell you about a funny story that a manufacturing manager said to me. He said Lee, I want to tell you about my practicing of pausing. I said sure, he says I didn’t quite do it like you said, but it had an impact. I said, okay.


He said he was talking to his team leader who was telling him about the closure of the, closed down of the factory and what they had to do and all the people that were going on leave and he said he had his laptop in front of him and the little pop-ups on his email kept coming up and he kept just looking at them like, oh I know what to do there. Gee! I better get onto that and then he found that probably two or three minutes or longer, he hadn’t heard a word that his team leader was saying.


He said he suddenly realized a one of the sessions I’d had with him about pausing and he jumped off his chair and he gave the guy frightened, and himself a frightened.  And he said, oh, oh, sorry, sorry, sorry, and he came around and he sit by this guy, and he said to him, I am so sorry. Would you mind rewinding 3 minutes and starting again?


And he said, you know Lee, it wasn’t the fact that I recognized what I’d done. It wasn’t the fact that I came around and sat next to him and said, sorry. The impact was the look on the guy’s face.


He said, it’s imprinted in my mind. He said that those seconds, he had a look of, So, what I’m saying is important.

Renata 00:19:43 


Lee 00:19:44 

You do want to be here with me. You know, he said a whole lot of emotion just flashed on this guy’s face and it had such an impact on me. I’m ringing you to tell you I will never do that again.

Renata 00:19:59 

That’s amazing.

Lee 00:20:00 

And so, if you can learn the art of pausing, and we all get distracted when none of us are perfect. You will find that you will hear a lot more of what somebody saying to you.

Renata 00:20:11 

That’s a great piece of counsel. Thank you, Lee. That’s wonderful.

Lee 00:20:15 

Ah, let me give you another one, okay?

Renata 00:20:18 

That’s okay.

Lee 00:20:20 

I think another one, is challenge for people is taking their self-awareness beyond themselves so you know, I say reflect back and look at how you listen, and they do that, and they go oh shoot, you know, Gee! Lee, I thought I was listening and so they go through that emotional journey. But my challenge to them is take your self-awareness to the person that was trying to talk to you and have a look and see the impact on them of your listening level.


A woman says to me, I go home from work I get in the kitchen I start cooking and I start doing those things. Start getting dinner ready and my teenage daughter often comes to the to the bench and talk to me about her day and I’m busy cooking and then she walks away. And this time I look up and I look at her face and it’s got total rejection on it.

Renata 00:21:08 


Lee 00:21:09 

And I realize that my busyness of cooking the dinner she knew I wasn’t really listening to. And she said, I just wanted to cry because she said, we’ve been doing this for a long time. And I didn’t realize what the impact I was having on my daughter, and she said I had to change. I really had to change what was important and what wasn’t important.

Renata 00:21:33 


Lee 00:21:34 

And so, taking your awareness and having a look at the impact on the other person really takes it one step further and you really understand the importance of listening when you see the look on somebody’s face.

Renata 00:21:47 


Lee 00:21:48 

Yeah, so there you go.

Renata 00:21:49 

Go wonderful, wonderful, thanks for that Lee.

Lee 00:21:51 

You’re welcome.


We can all become better listeners, all of us. It doesn’t matter what our title is, we can all become better listeners and if I do a little plug you know, to read the five levels of listening, which is not a is definitely being designed not to be hard to read and it wouldn’t take long to read is that to get it and see a transformation occur in yourself and others. So, it’s not only the transformation in themselves…

Renata 00:22:23 


Lee 00:22:24 

It’ll be a transformation they see in others as they become better listeners.

Renata 00:22:27 


Lee 00:22:28 

If people are in an organization. Book a breakout session. I spent an hour with groups of people explaining the importance of listening, but then leaving them with two or three tips on how to become better listeners right then and there,

Renata 00:22:42 


Lee 00:22:43 

And I had a recruiter ring me the other day and say Lee, you came and spoke to us three years ago and I want to tell you the difference, it’s made about me in my job as I talk to people who are looking for work and working for my clients who are wanting particular people. It’s just enhanced my job so much I can’t even describe it. I’m a different person.

Renata 00:23:03 

That’s amazing.

Lee 00:23:05 

And I thought, wow, thanks for picking up the phone and ringing telling me that.

Renata 00:23:09 


Lee 00:23:10 

But two, it has a ripple effect and just by a simple exercise of becoming a better listener, because you know, when I ask people, were you taught how to listen or were you told to listen? 98% of people will say to me I was told to listen.

Renata 00:23:26 


Lee 00:23:27 

I was told to listen as a kid. I was told to listen in my classroom. My teachers told me to listen. Some of them are like me and did do a lot of listening, you know, and so you know they all mostly will say to me I’ve never actually been taught how to listen.

Renata 00:23:41 


Lee 00:23:42 

And that’s the key to the five levels of listening. It’s about how to listen. We can always tell people to listen.

Renata 00:23:49 


Lee 00:23:50  

But how do people listen is the question. Yeah, and that’s the key to it.

Renata 00:23:55 

So, what’s the name of your book and where can they find it?

Lee 00:23:58 

Yeah, so it’s the Five Levels of Listening and it can be found on www.successbeginswithlistening.com

Renata 00:24:06 


Lee 00:24:07 

So, they can do that, yeah.

Renata 00:24:08 

And can they book that session with you there as well?

Lee 00:24:14 

Yes, they can book a breakout session there and, or they can send us an email and the emails there on the side.

Renata 00:24:20 


Lee 00:24:21 

That they can do. And happy to do that anywhere.

Renata 00:24:24 


Lee 00:24:25 

I’ve done breakout sessions in India, Australia. You know, different places in the world.

Renata 00:24:30 


Lee 00:24:31 

And just make it work for them in their time zone. So that doesn’t worry me whatsoever.

Renata 00:24:35 

Right, I guess I should have told the audience that you are in New Zealand and was very gracious to get up super early this morning to have this conversation. But yeah, so you’ll make yourself available no matter what country.

Lee 00:24:48 

Yeah, yeah. Absolutely, absolutely.

Renata 00:24:51 

Wonderful, so other than your website, is there any other places that people can go to read about you, any other social media?

Lee 00:24:58 

Yup, they can go on LinkedIn. Just find me on LinkedIn, Lee Renata, on LinkedIn. And also, I have another website around change and transformation which is http://www.challengethewayyouthink.com

Renata 00:25:10 


Lee 00:25:11 

And that’s where all the change and transformation work, workers.

Renata 00:25:17 

Great. Well, that’s it for our session today. Thank you, Lee for being a guest. We appreciate all your wise information, tips and feedback.

Lee 00:25:26 

You’re welcome.

Renata 00:25:27 

Please make sure that you rate review and provide feedback on our podcast so more people can receive information on how to better improve the leadership of their organization.


Thank you all for listening. Talk to you next week.