Most people do not listen enough. Don’t get fooled by the think pieces telling you that this is a modern problem because we’re all glued to our smartphones either; a few thousand years ago, the Greek philosopher Diogenes said, “We have two ears and one tongue so that we would listen more and talk less.” You would have thought we’d have learned our lesson after several thousand years of civilization, but as Stephen Covey said much more recently, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”

If you want to be perceived as a great leader, it’s critical that you develop exceptional listening skills. Let’s talk about what makes good listening, and how to do it.

Listening is about hearing ideas, not formulating replies

If you’re only hearing the first few words that someone says, and then immediately thinking about what you’re going to say as soon as they pause to take a breath, you’re not really listening. There are times and places where it is appropriate to interrupt someone or take control of a conversation, but they should be rare occurrences. When you’re talking to someone, especially if you’ve asked them a question, give them the respect of listening to what they have to say.

This may mean that you may have to take a few moments when it’s your turn to formulate your thoughts. That’s okay. If you feel like the pause in conversation becomes awkward, you can say: “That’s a lot to think about. Give me a moment to think through what I want to say, here.” This lets the other person know that you’re interested and engaged, but allows you to be careful with your words.

Know your audience

Depending on where you grew up, you might have been introduced to a concept called “whole body listening.” This idea suggests that, in order to be perceived as a receptive audience, you need to turn your body toward the speaker, make eye contact, and keep your hands and feet still. While some people still perpetuate this idea, it’s worth noting that this is a very American-centric style of listening. To many people of European or Asian cultures, this level of focus would be perceived as very aggressive and rude.

Many people also focus better when their hands or bodies are in motion. This isn’t to say that you should expect to be perceived as paying attention when you’re checking your email or playing on your cellphone, but remember that not everyone is comfortable making eye contact. To insist on it, or to force it on someone who seems to be uncomfortable, is inappropriate.

Show your attention with questions and comments

Forget awkward eye contact and complete stillness; the best way to show your interest and engagement in the topic at hand is to ask engaging and relevant questions. “Can you tell me more about this piece?” “I like what you’re saying about this, can you tell me more about how it would fit into our organization?” and “I heard something similar from another expert last year, but they offered a differing opinion; can you talk about why you believe what you believe?” are all excellent opportunities for the person you’re speaking with to expand on their ideas and offer you the information you need to make the right decision as a leader.

If you have a hard time remembering the question you had a few minutes ago, don’t be afraid to make quick notes!

Appreciate the value of what you’re being given

Whether you’ve asked another leader out to coffee to pick their brain on their area of expertise or you’re meeting with a direct report to find out their opinion on a project, you should always thank them for what they’ve given you.

If they’ve shared a direct insight that is going to change how you do business or help your company move forward, say so. “I’m excited to take this information back to my team and see how we can implement some of these changes into our daily operations.”

Even if you didn’t end up getting the information you needed, still say thank you. “I really appreciate you taking the time to meet with me today. I know your schedule is busy, and it was fantastic to catch up and get this feedback.”

As entrepreneurs, we sometimes think that our lives are going to be all spent at the top of the dog pile, looking around at the people below us. In fact, the very best leaders are those who make time for everyone who isn’t up there with us. After all, no one person is an expert on everything; surround yourself with people who are better than you are at the different facets of your company, and then listen to what they have to say.