Up Your Active Listening Game by Eliminating Distractions

Active Listening DistractionsOne important way to improve your active listening ability is to identify and eliminate distractions in your environment with this coaching tool. You can be great at many other facets of listening, but if your phone line is full of static or you are constantly interrupted, you’ll still find it very difficult to listen well. True active listening intently is hard work. Often simple changes like taking a few minutes before a meeting to get centered, purchasing a phone headset, or turning off your computer monitor while you are coaching can make a big difference.

Active Listening Distractions: An Evaluation

This tool designed to help you identify distractions in your environment that keep you from listening well. When taking the assessment, score yourself based on your last coaching session (if you aren’t a coach, think of the last one-on-one you had.) Circle the statements that apply to you and add up the points to get a total


  • -2 Your e-mail or messaging program is open in front of you
  • -1 Your to-do list or mobile phone is sitting out in the open where you can see and read or respond to it
  • -5 You do e-mail, texting or work on other projects while you are coaching
  • -1 You are sitting at your main work desk
  • -1 You can hear a noticeable amount of background noise (others talking, a phone ringing, street noise, etc.)
  • -2 Your door is open or the place you are coaching in has no door
  • -2 You finished another meeting, project or deadline less than 15 minutes before this appt
  • -3 You worked on other tasks right up to the moment the phone was ringing for this call.
  • -2 You did not review your client notes for this appointment until the session started
  • -1 You are using Skype or another voice over ip app instead of a phone
  • -3 You are using Skype or a voice over ip app and this is an international call
  • -2 There is a fair amount of stress and conflict in your life right now
  • -1 You have a dog in the house
  • -1 You are hungry, thirsty, short on sleep or otherwise in a state of physical discomfort



  • +1 Your notes for this client are organized and easily accessible
  • +3 You took at least 10 minutes before this appointment to get centered and review your notes
  • +2 You’ve made a serious personal commitment to be all there and not multi-task while you are coaching
  • +3 Your desk and screen are clear, or you have a separate chair you use to coach in, away from your daily work
  • +1 You have a phone headset
  • +1 You have a comfortable environment to coach in (correct temperature, good chair, etc)
  • +1 You’ve prayed for this client this week
  • +3 You don’t have any calls, walk-ins, texts or interruptions while you coach.
  • +2 You’ve set clear, easy to follow boundaries for your family or co-workers when you are on coaching calls, and they follow those boundaries
  • +2 Your appointments are scheduled at a time of day when you are alert, and you’re well rested
  • +1 Your connection is clear and totally reliable.

Total it up

Now, add up your total points. If your score is negative, change your environment. If you are a professional coach or counselor, the bar should be higher: if your score is less than +7, make some changes!

leadership coachingAdapted from Leadership Coaching by Tony Stoltzfus.

Tony Stoltzfus has two decades of experience coaching and training coaches, and is the author of many popular coaching books and resources. He specializes in coaching “senior leaders in painful transitions.”