Quiet Leadership – Six Steps to Transforming Performance at Work

In Quiet leadership, David Rock talks about the shift in the landscape of the modern-day workplace. Why leaders should care about improving thinking, and how they can do this?

Help people think better – don’t tell them what to do!

In the starting of the 19th century, most people were paid for physical labour to undertake repetitive tasks like entering data, filing papers, running machinery. But in the last few decades, systemized task either has been computerized or automated. As a result, most of the labour/employees nowadays get paid to think. e.g. to improving processes, to increase efficiency. Employees today are better educated than any previous generation. So instead of telling them what to do, leaders should focus more on how to help them think better.

Your brain is like a hard drive with limited space. You can’t delete old files, but you can overwrite

The underlying function of the brain is to find associations, connections and links between the bits of the information. That’s how we perceive reality. We think the best way to fix a habit is to find the root cause. Our automatic approach is – deconstruct a habit, look for the links, and try to make connections with the habit from our past. In the process, instead of replacing, we intensify the connections between the habit and other parts of our brain. Even telling our brain to “stop it” doesn’t always work.

Instead, what we can do is make new wirings. Whenever we read a book or have a conversation, the experience causes physical changes in our brain. Focus on making new connections with the situation, and give less energy to the things you don’t like. Pathways you don’t use for a while, slowly become less connected and disappears.

6 Step Process To Transform Performance At Work –

Before we jumping into the process, Imagine the scenario – two people having this conversation – Sam, who is the Head of Sales, and Roger, who is the CEO of the company. 

Scenario – 1

SAM – “I don’t know whether we will be able to deliver this project or not.” ROGER – “It’s important to deliver this project on time so that we hit our number. I think you need to get more focused and put more time into this, the deadline is coming fast.”

Scenario – 2

SAM – “I don’t know whether we will be able to deliver this project or not.” ROGER – “How can I best help you think this through?” or “When you say you are not sure, which part of this do you want to discuss with me?”
SAM – “I’m not sure… I just fell stretched by the budgets.” or “Deadline is too short.”
ROGER – “How much it will exceed? Do you have any less expensive alternative to this”? or “How much extra time do you think will it take to deliver this project?”
SAM – “Using this technology we will overshoot by 2x but I think I have an alternative solution which is way cheaper than the existing solution and we will be able to deliver the same project with-in our budget constraints.” or “Probably, if we can add additional manpower for one week then we can deliver this project on-time.”

Step 1: Think About Thinking

a. Let them do all the thinking – The best way to improve performance is by helping people to think better, instead of telling people what to do or how to do. In scenario – 1, Roger is trying to help Sam, but it is unlikely that Sam will be motivated or inspired by the interaction. In scenario – 2, Roger is facilitating a self-directed learning process.

b. Focus on solutions – Focusing on solution means focusing on the way ahead. Looking into the problem, our brain circuits start associating with the problem. In scenario 2, the conversation is solution-focused, but in scenario 1, it is problem-focused.

c. Remember to stretch – Any time when we are doing something new or push ourself an extra mile, we make new pathways in our brain. When our brain makes new pathways then Aha! moment gives us the kind of energy needed to become motivated or willing to take further action.

d. Accentuate the positive – We are our own worst critics. We need more positive feedback, especially when we are learning new behaviours.

e. Put process before the content – Have a clear structure to the conversation. Use Dance of the Insight model.

Step 2- Listen For Potential

Listening genuinely to the person keeping our biases aside assuming person speaking can and will solve their dilemmas. Leaders can be more helpful if they avoid getting too much into detail. Doing so will help them bypass their biases/filters and can focus on the big picture.

Step 3- Speak With Intent

Instead of delivering a long speech, use few words. But be specific and generous while speaking.

Step 4- Use Dance Of Insight Model

Permission – Ask for permission before starting a conversation. Taking permission makes people feel safe, helps in trust-building and help them asking hard questions.

Placement – It is important that both parties have the same intent. Before jumping into the conversation, set the context e.g. topic of discussion, end-result you are looking for. This helps both parties to stay on track.

Asking thinking question – Asking questions which create more self-awareness. These questions are not “why” questions, they are “how” question.

Clarifying – Extract the essence of what other person is saying from a very high level to give people mini insights.

and repeat the process from placement until you reach on a conclusion.

Step 5- CREATE New Thinking

CR – Current Reality – What is the current landscape of thinking. How long have they been thinking about this? What are they doing about it?

EA – Explore Alternative – Thinking about the new ways to deal with the current situation.

TE – Tap their energy – Once a person has an insight, instantly put them into actions. Then ask them to take specific action/responsibility.

Step 6- Follow Up

Last and most important step is following up on the action people set for themselves.

Prabhjot Singh

Prabhjot Singh

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