Lessons in Quiet Leadership

In his book Quiet Leadership, David Rock sets forth some important principles that have particularly resonated with me lately. I’ve had the opportunity to observe some great leadership skills and traits but have also seen some perfect examples of poor leadership as well.

Concept or conceptual strong human or man 3D anatomy body with mIn an effort to transform performance and “coach performance improvement,” here are some quick ideas that can help you reframe conversations with your team:

  1.  Let them do the thinking. The idea here is that most leaders like to do the thinking for others, believing they have the right solutions and if others would only see what they see, they could solve problems more efficiently and effectively. When we focus on helping others come up with their own solutions, the “aha” moment that clicks for them rewires their circuits and creates opportunities for them to be more effective problem solvers in the future.
  2. Focus on solutions. I see so many client leaders do the exact opposite; they focus on problems and on analyzing and diagnosing root causes on behalf of others. Instead, turning the conversation to focus on brainstorming solutions can make all the difference. For example, it’s the difference between saying “Why did we lose that sale?” vs. “How can we make sure we win the sale next time?”
  3. Remember to stretch. This is the simple idea that human beings crave sameness – and that it’s hard to motivate ourselves to change. However, when others “stretch” us  they see that our potential isn’t being met and can encourage us to take on new things or apply skills in a way we’ve not done before. Identifying stretch goals and putting people on a new project that’s way out of their comfort zone are examples of stretching others.
  4. Accentuate the positive. Rock calls out the “sandwich” principle of giving feedback. You know this one – start with something positive, let the “meat” become the negative feedback, finish with something positive. His point is that most of us are extremely self-critical and we provide enough criticism of ourselves. Instead, by focusing on recognizing, affirming and thanking others, we positively reinforce all the things that have gone well and thereby create future opportunities to continue to build on that success.

While this sounds intuitive and easy to do, in practice, it isn’t. I find it particularly difficult myself to put #1 into action … like most people, my overactive brain is always in thinking mode and I’m driven to solve problems for others. However, the key is to stop and take a few minutes before key conversations with your team and plan your approach. Thinking about how you can apply these principles before critical conversations can make a big impact on them and says a lot about your effectiveness as a leader.

Sheri Browning is a Partner at PeopleResults and is happy to report that she’s working with a number of very effective leaders these days. You can reach her at sbrowning@people-results.com or on Twitter @sbPResults.