Listen to Understand: The Gift of Truly Listening Through Mindful Leadership

listen to understand

Grant Ian Gamble is a best-selling mindful leadership author and speaker. He has over 30 years of experience in leading teams to create innovative customer experiences, building engaged workforces, and developing leaders who prioritize mindfulness in their approach.

The Pivotal Morning Meeting

It was an early Monday morning, and the head office of a large fitness and wellness club group was bustling with energy. The senior managers were gathered around a massive oak conference table, coffee cups in hand. The COO stood up to speak, his words filled with jargon and buzzwords about “maximizing profits” and “leveraging customer data.” 

But something was off. The room was physically full, but emotionally empty. No one was truly engaged; they were just nodding along without absorbing the substance of the message. It was at this moment that Sam, the newly appointed Director of Wellness, cleared her throat and offered a different perspective, “Have we ever considered listening to understand our team members and customers, instead of listening to respond?”

Silence followed. Sam had touched on a principle that is often overlooked in the corporate world but is at the heart of mindful leadership—listen to understand. 

Listen to Understand: A Cornerstone of Mindful Leadership

In “The Affinity Principle,” I describe listening as a “gift we give to another human being.” It’s not just about hearing the words but understanding the emotion and intent behind them. Mindful leadership demands this quality of listening to effectively guide, motivate, and support team members. 

When fitness and wellness club owners, operators, and managers incorporate this principle, they unlock a level of engagement and satisfaction that no amount of buzzwords can deliver. You not only improve your communication with your team but also with your members, who can feel the difference when they are genuinely understood.

Why It Matters in the Fitness and Wellness Sector

The fitness and wellness industry thrives on human interaction. Whether it’s the friendly receptionist at the front desk, the enthusiastic Pilates instructor, or the empathetic wellness coach, each touchpoint makes a difference in customer experience. Listening to understand—truly hearing your team members and your members—creates an environment of trust and inclusivity. 

Practical Steps to Master the Art of Listening:

  1. Be Present: Engage fully in the conversation. This means no multitasking, no preconceived notions, and definitely no distractions.

  1. Open Body Language: Maintain eye contact, nod affirmatively, and lean in slightly to show you’re genuinely interested.

  1. Empathize: Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. This can provide invaluable insights that can be used to improve your services and address grievances effectively.

Wrapping Up

As stressed in “The Affinity Principle,” mindful leadership goes beyond strategic thinking and managerial competence. It’s about creating an emotional connection with your team and, by extension, your members. And this starts with the simple yet powerful act of listening to understand. In the fast-paced world of fitness and wellness, where member experience is paramount, this skill is not just a nice-to-have; it’s a must-have.

Start today. Listen more, speak less, and watch how the fabric of your club changes for the better.

Take your customer service skills—and your team—to the next level with the AFFINITY in Customer Service Certification!

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