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Quiet Leadership by David Rock. How to Help Someone Have an “Aha!” (Review)

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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:

  1. Think about thinking (focusing on how your conversation partner is thinking about the issue troubling them)
  2. Listen for potential (listening with a belief your conversation partner already has the tools for success)
  3. Speak with intent (Be succinct. Be specific. Be generous.)
  4. Dance toward insight (Conversation really is a kind of dance)
    1. Permission
    2. Placement
    3. Questioning
    4. Clarifying
  5. CREATE new thinking by exploring:
    1. Current Reality
    2. Explore Alternatives
    3. Tap Energy
  6. 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.

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Written by kirkistan

August 22, 2013 at 5:00 am

Quiet Leadership by David Rock. How to Help Someone Have an “Aha!” (Review)

with 2 comments

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:

  1. Think about thinking (focusing on how your conversation partner is thinking about the issue troubling them)
  2. Listen for potential (listening with a belief your conversation partner already has the tools for success)
  3. Speak with intent (Be succinct. Be specific. Be generous.)
  4. Dance toward insight (Conversation really is a kind of dance)
    1. Permission
    2. Placement
    3. Questioning
    4. Clarifying
  5. CREATE new thinking by exploring:
    1. Current Reality
    2. Explore Alternatives
    3. Tap Energy
  6. 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.

###

Written by kirkistan

May 16, 2011 at 8:44 am

Catalyze This! (Dummy’s Guide to Conversation #26)

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What to do: Engage colleagues or just put up with them?

G15Between David Rock and David Bohm there is a lot of good advice about helping people have productive conversations. Rock’s “Quiet Leadership” is all about helping your friend find the answer she already knows, which is particularly useful for folks with leadership responsibilities. Bohm, on the other hand, was an omni-thinking physicist with deep curiosity about ordinary life connections. Bohm (and Rock, for that matter) are two of my conversational heroes.
Here’s Bohm on how it is that something new gets created between two people (italics added):

Consider a dialogue. In such a dialogue, when one person says something, the other person does not in general respond with exactly the same meaning as that seen by the first person. Rather, the meanings are only similar and not identical. Thus, when the second person replies, the first person sees a difference between what he meant to say and what the other person understood. On considering the difference, he may then be able to see something new, which is relevant both to his own views and to those of the other person. And so it can go back and forth, with the continual emergence of a new content. That is common to both participants. Thus, in a dialogue, each person does not attempt to make common certain ideas or items of information that are already known to him. Rather, it may be said that the two people are making something in common, i.e., creating something new together.

–David Bohm, On Dialogue (New York: Routledge, 1996)

Every day affords some catalyzing opportunity, often hidden in a very ordinary exchange.

How will you leap in to catalyze today?

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Dumb Sketch/Timed Gesture: Kirk Livingston

How To Talk Like Superman

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Please, put the cape away.

Not so much the cartoon character, but think of the raconteur who magnetizes with stories and wit and rhythm. Or think of the person you go to when trying to sort some thorny issue. These are the people you find entertaining or interesting at least partly because they listen to you. And partly because you hear something useful from them.

ThroughTheDark-2-08132014

That’s how to talk like superman: listen closely to what someone is saying and then respond with stories and probing questions that drill down a bit—staying focused on what you heard. To the person you are talking with, you just may be summoning superpowers. That’s because we never know when a casual word may be the linchpin that connects two or three sets of thoughts that set a life in motion.

We all have stories like this: the guy we talked with casually at the end of a club meeting mentioned a guy to talk with at the company we were interested in. We talk with that guy and he mentions someone else in the company…and then you find yourself in the company. Your online application and discussions with HR led nowhere, but a few conversations with the right people and you are in.
David Rock’s Quiet Leadership offers solid pointers about gathering the superpower of helping others learn what they already know. He shows how to help people make connections.

Please use your superpowers for good today.
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Image credit: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

August 13, 2014 at 11:05 am

How to help your teammate hatch an idea (Dummy’s Guide to Conversation #22)

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The satisfying work of relating

Some of us find great joy in the work itself: left alone to turn the block on the lathe or write the intro paragraph—we get a tad giddy. Like we know what we are doing (more or less) and this process is stimulating and fun and I can see stuff taking shape.

A friend with a VP-of-Meetings type brain would often jab me with his love of meetings:

Meetings are great. I don’t know why people hate them so. We get so much done.

When he said this I assumed they were great for him because he enjoyed telling others what to do. And his lackeys went and accomplished real stuff. Were meetings great for his lackeys? I have my doubts.

But for many of us, it is difficult to get that sense of getting stuff done with people. Conversation is a messy business that seems to typically lead into a wilderness of tangents and false starts rather than to a place where real stuff happens. Washington is the current poster child for conversation thwarted at every turn.

Must it be that way?

Can you see how a lot of freight gets shifted in a conversation?

Can you see how a lot of freight gets shifted in a conversation?

I can’t prescribe a cure for Washington (though targeting the removal of big money would be a positive first step), but here’s a few suggestions for helping each other hatch big ideas and get stuff done:

  1. Listen. For real—really listen. And repeat back what your colleague says to make sure you get it and to give yourself time to process what your colleague said. Resist the temptation to formulate a counter-argument while appearing to listen. Listen for potential.
  2. Ask your colleague to say more. Gain clarity for yourself and your colleague. Work out the idea together through a volley of responses.
  3. Breathe. That’s right, take a breath so you can stay in the moment and hear your colleague. They might just do the same for you.
  4. Use your words to precisely parse an idea. It’s easy to get sloppy and quickly dismiss ideas (and people, for that matter). Instead, tease out the potential idea you saw. Give it some kindling and fan it and get the fire going.
  5. Say it out loud to get something done. Pulling together an idea that is scattered before a team is sort of like nailing it to the wall for all to see. Once everyone sees it, they can respond. Grabbing the idea and saying it aloud can often feel like work accomplished. It feels that way because it is exactly that.

We do well to pay attention to what our colleagues are saying. And the more attention we pay, the more wealth of ideas and practical insights we might just find. In fact, some people work this way all the time:

 

When we toss things back and forth, there is no compromise at all. That is when it is magic.

–Millman, Debbie. How to think like a great graphic designer. (NY: Allworth Press, 2007). From Emily Oberman & Bonnie Siegler/ Number 17, p.96

 Also: consider returning to David Rock’s Quiet Leadership and check out his tidy six steps

  1. Think about thinking
  2. Listen for potential
  3. Speak with intent
  4. Dance toward insight (Permission + Placement + Questioning + Clarifying)
  5. CREATE New thinking
  6. Follow up

People are never tools or things we manipulate to achieve our desired end. But honoring each other by listening and talking—that’s how real stuff gets done in the real world.

 

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Image credit: Kirk Livingston

4 Leadership Lessons from Kick-Ass

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It takes more than a costume. But a costume is a start.

I watched Kick-Ass the other night. It had been on my list for some time, I just wasn’t sure I could handle mayhem and gore in the service of comedy. Turns out I could and did. It’s sort of a naïve movie: kid with no superpowers wants to take on the villains. Which he does, to disastrous personal effect. This got me thinking about the costs of moving our dreams into real life.

But first: my definition of leadership is likely different from yours. I’m starting to think of a leader as anyone who shows others a way forward. The leader I’m thinking of is more likely in the ranks than the spotlight. I’m not thinking of the glib vice-president with the bully pulpit of corporate position. I’m thinking of the quiet leader. I’m thinking of the driver who let me merge with a smile and a nod. That guy changed my day.

These four lessons could apply to anyone leading from within their ranks.

  1. Tell people what you are about. Maybe find a name or title that commands attention (or at least grabs people by the…well, throat). This is about staking an identity—so name what it is you are trying to do. Tell your dream out loud in a short way others can understand. And then suffer the consequences. Scrawny every-teen Dave Lizewski chose “kick-ass,” which is both aspirational and a slap in the face to any he said it to. Kinda genius.
  2. Take action. In public. Dave Lizewski began by wondering aloud why no regular people tried this work of superhero fighting crime. Soon he wasn’t content just trying on the costume and practicing Ninja moves in front of the mirror—he had to go out and do it. A knife to the gut and a few quick beatings helped him see why no regular folks did this work. But the point is that he started something that others would see. And as he failed he also succeeded (from time to time). That was the pattern and he stuck with it.
  3. Get comrades. It’s all comic book stuff, so no surprise Dave Lizewski was found by other real (fake) superheros. What was surprising was how well-equipped these real (fake) superheroes were with guns, ammo and know-how enough for a small army. In real life this looks like finding others doing the same thing and somehow linking with them. Or at the very least starting a conversation with them. Writers join writing groups for this reason. Civil war reenactors fight for the confederacy again and again for this reason.
  4. Go for love and be surprised by duty. Too often it is duty that moves me forward and love is somewhere in the background. But our teen hero started for love of justice and continued for love (or was it lust?) for the comely young woman. But the pull of duty called him back in the end when he could have walked away.

Kick-Ass is a comic book set in real life with (occasional) real life results. It’s entertaining like watching an accident happen, but the movie is strangely unforgettable. And it made me want to be more bold and public with the things I’m trying to do.

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Written by kirkistan

July 25, 2011 at 6:00 am

Posted in curiosities

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