Quiet Leadership by David Rock. How to Help Someone Have an “Aha!” (Review)
Talk your friend into the answer she already knows
How do you help people connect the dots in their work lives…and in the rest of their lives? Turns out there is a lot we can do. And our primary tool is conversation. In Quiet Leadership, David Rock gives an overview of (relatively) recent neurological findings to show how our brains remain plastic, that is, moldable and changeable, long after childhood. It was once thought that at some point in late childhood our brains stopped—well, it’s not that they stopped growing, but seemed to create new neural pathways with less frequency. That thinking was all wrong. The truth is our brains are capable of growing new neural pathways all the time—new mental “wiring.” And by calling it “wiring,” Rock hints at the mechanics of how we help each other connect previously unconnected thoughts and motivations. He works at changing our mental wiring using questions about our thinking. Helping people find their own answers is light years more effective than telling someone what to do.
Like most books written for the business market, Rock presents a tidy set of steps to follow. Quiet Leadership has six steps. Each step has a chapter or section attached, so there is a lot of very practical, very interesting information for each. I outline these steps below because after reading the book and getting a sense of the potential, I’m curious to remember and try them:
- Think about thinking (focusing on how your conversation partner is thinking about the issue troubling them)
- Listen for potential (listening with a belief your conversation partner already has the tools for success)
- Speak with intent (Be succinct. Be specific. Be generous.)
- Dance toward insight (Conversation really is a kind of dance)
- CREATE new thinking by exploring:
- Current Reality
- Explore Alternatives
- Tap Energy
- Follow up (Renewing and restoring the motivational connections by checking in later)
You may be skeptical of tidy steps. You may think “dance toward insight” is too over-the-top. I agree. And yet there is something in what Rock says that speaks to the reality of any conversation. Conversations routinely take off in crazy directions. Conversations often start with a need and we immediately feel helpless to meet the need: we don’t know all the details. Even if we did, we don’t know how our conversation partner is really thinking about the issue.
Rock provides a way to probe thinking (I like how he asks permission to probe) to not only help a person find solutions, but also to help a person be motivated to act on the solution.
I’ll use this book as I teach, with clients, and in general conversation. I highly recommend it.