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You can’t hear what anyone else is saying as long as you are speaking. You can’t listen to them.

By Leif Babin

The audio version is available on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Amazon Music, Google Podcast, Sticher, and RadioPublic


Half-Duplex Transmission 

Before being commissioned as an officer, Jocko was a radioman in the SEAL Teams. The radioman carries the big radio to communicate with other units on the battlefield and supporting assets.  

Military radios are half-duplex machines. Half-duplex means that, unlike a cell phone, the radio cannot both transmit and receive at the same time. Pressing a button on the radio’s handset lets you transmit your message to everyone monitoring the radio network. But it also prevents you from receiving transmissions from anyone else. While you talk, you can’t hear what anyone else says. You receive transmissions from others only after you stop speaking into the radio, release the button on the handset, and cease transmitting. 

Human Beings Are Half-Duplex Machines 

Like a half-duplex radio, you cannot receive transmissions from anyone else whenever you are in transmit mode. You can’t hear what anyone else is saying as long as you are speaking. You can’t listen to them.  

How Do You Get Others To Listen? 

We all want people to listen to us. We want to share our perspectives or opinion. Getting others to listen to us is a crucial aspect of successful leadership. But how do you get others to listen to you? It isn’t by talking over them. Or demanding they listen to you. The way to get others to listen to you is to listen to them.  

Listening is one of the most underrated tools of leadership.  


“They just need to shut up and listen to me,” the supervisor said. “This team is inexperienced. They don’t even know what they don’t know. I’ve been in this line of work since they were in grade school.”  

“You probably have a lot of lessons learned,” I said. “When Jocko and I started working together in Task Unit Bruiser, he had a ton of experience in the SEAL Teams. I had very little. But every time I approached him with an idea, instead of shutting me down, he would say, ‘Talk me through how that would work.’” 

 “If my idea made sense, he’d say, ‘Let’s give it a shot.’ If it didn’t make sense, he would ask questions and help me understand how the idea might be problematic, and another way might be better. But he was always willing to listen to me, which built our relationship. As a result, I listened to him.” 

“If you want your people to listen to you,” I concluded, “you need to listen to them. That’s what good leadership looks like.” 


This week, make it a top priority to talk less and listen more.  Ask others for their ideas, and seek their opinions and inputs. When they are talking, make sure you don’t jump in and cut them off. Let them talk and ensure you are genuinely listening. That is what good leadership looks like. MAKE IT HAPPEN. 

Leif Babin

Leif Babin

President & Co-Founder of Echelon Front

Leif Babin, a former U.S. Navy SEAL officer, is the President and co-founder of Echelon Front LLC, a leadership consulting firm. Leif is the co-author, alongside Jocko Willink, of the New York Times bestsellers, Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALS Lead and Win, and the Dichotomy of Leadership: Balancing the Challenges of Extreme Ownership to Lead and Win. Echelon Front teaches the principles of Extreme Ownership and the Dichotomy of Leadership to help leaders apply them in their world to solve problems, accomplish their goals, and achieve victory in business and life.

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