CEO Spotlight: Michael Capiraso on the Importance of Listening for Quality Leadership — CEOWORLD magazine

Michael Capiraso
4 min readMay 7, 2021

Michael Capiraso Shares 6 Effective Listening Tips for Quality Leadership

Michael Capiraso, the former president and CEO of New York Road Runners (NYRR), knows all too well that quality leadership relies heavily on listening skills.

Business leaders become more effective when they know how to listen, and recent studies confirm this. For example, humans derive 85% of their knowledge from listening, and yet we generally listen at a 25% comprehension rate.

More astoundingly, less than 2% of professionals went through formal education and training on listening skills and techniques. As today’s marketplace becomes more competitive, Capiraso shared six essential skills for effective leadership.

1. Effective listening isn’t just about being silent

Harvard School of Public Health researchers support a hypothesis that effective listening isn’t just about not talking at all. Many people mistakenly think that they could be effective listeners when they just remain silent.

Rick Fulwiler, the program director at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said that effective listeners exert more energy than passive listeners. In other words, effective listening involves paying attention to:

  • Behavioral tendencies
  • Body language
  • Facial expressions
  • Mood and emotions

As renowned management consultant Peter Drucker once said, the most vital part of communication is recognizing non-verbal cues. Fulwiler agrees that while passive listening is important, business leaders won’t be successful if they aren’t effective listeners.

2. Effective listeners stay in the moment

Capiraso advises business leaders to stay in the moment and ignore environmental factors when interacting with speakers. Do you instinctively think of what to say next while listening to someone? If you have this habit, it can be detrimental to your management skills.

Effective listening not only shows that you are indeed listening, but it also requires a genuine effort to understand what is being said. Gestures such as nodding and smiling indicate that you are listening to the speaker.

The biggest challenge, however, involves a mastery of this skill. You certainly don’t want someone to think that you’re pretending to listen. Start with putting aside intrusive thoughts and wait for the speaker to finish their sentences.

One such example involves weekly meetings. Many business leaders and employees believe that shorter meetings contribute to better productivity. While this is true, it’s equally important to ponder on what was discussed and ultimately save more time by reducing workplace mistakes.

3. Effective listeners adopt an open mindset

By open mindset, it means abandoning preconceived ideas about the speaker. Business leaders tend to have prejudiced thoughts, especially when they have previous interactions with the speaker.

Whether or not your experience with the speaker was positive, it affects your ability to listen effectively. This personal bias ultimately prevents you from respecting their thoughts.

Business leaders in HR would particularly benefit from an open mindset. If they hire skilled individuals, it’s ideal to reflect on their feedback. Employers with effective listeners in HR can improve retention rates and existing workplace culture.

4. Effective listeners hear more than just facts

When you listen to your team’s input, take the time to read between the lines. For example, a sudden change in attitude among high-performing employees may suggest trouble in their personal lives. They might try to cloak a deteriorating performance by pretending to be discouraged from recent errors.

An effective listener knows when and how to connect the dots while listening to a speaker. It doesn’t necessarily mean jumping to conclusions. There’s a fine line that separates the latter and effective listening.

A good business leader, though, demonstrates attentiveness beyond the facts presented by the speaker.

5. Effective listeners don’t interrupt

It’s common knowledge not to interrupt someone while they are speaking, yet so many of us do this on purpose or otherwise. You may feel the urge to talk abruptly because of a sudden exciting thought.

You can avoid this by waiting for non-verbal cues that signal the end of someone’s speech. By doing so, you’ll avoid the negative consequences of interjecting during a conversation.

For example, the speaker may no longer feel comfortable about sharing their thoughts because you keep on interrupting them.

6. Effective listeners can keep the conversation going

Good business leaders know how to maintain an effortless conversation with a speaker through great responses. Follow-up questions create seamless connections to different topics. Try to ask open-ended questions, and paraphrase what the speaker has told you.

A paraphrased question doesn’t just ensure a fluid conversation. It also hints to the speaker that you are listening to them.

As research confirmed that we devote 30% of a typical business day to talking, we should maximize that time in delivering effective responses. The remaining 70% goes to listening (45%), reading (16%), and writing (9%).

Now that you know the essential listening skills for effective leaders, you should draft a personalized communication strategy. Start with an honest assessment of how you interact with speakers.

Originally published at on May 7, 2021.



Michael Capiraso

Michael Capariso is a visionary leader who serves on the board of JoggingBuddy and has shaped the business and brand strategies of the NFL, MLB, NYRR and more.