For more than 10 years companies have paid me to “tell” their leaders what they can do to get better. The fact that they keep asking me back means it must be working……a little!
However, everything is changing before my eyes and the reasons are many:
- Hired some outstanding talent.
- Read the book “Quiet Leadership” by David Rock.
- Supported the development of a habit-forming learning experience on how to build a coaching mindset.
Let’s put all of this together.
Like most leaders, I walk around with a slightly elevated belief in myself and my abilities. In most things leadership, I am unconsciously incompetent. For example, I am passionate about people. I wake up every morning with the desire to help my team and the workplace perform better. I truly believed I wasn’t bad at coaching. I have participated in coaching training programs, read a few books, and no one ever told me I wasn’t a good coach.
Here’s the reality.
- Many leaders don’t know what they don’t know. They think they are better than they really are, and so do the HR teams that support them.
- Few companies have rich feedback cultures, so leaders don’t get the feedback they need to improve. (Again, many think they do, but they don’t.)
- Through traditional training programs, we tell leaders what they should be doing. But after an initial spike, they go back to the same old habits because they think they worked just fine.
That’s my reality.
I thought I was better than I was. No one told me otherwise. However, as I look back, I see that had I many bad coaching habits.
What about you? Ask yourself:
- Have you “told” someone on your team what they should do? I have!
- Have you “done and shown” a team member what they should do? I have!
- Do you enjoy handing “control” to your team and letting them figure things out with the potential for failure? I had not!
As a business, our vision is to make the workplace a better place to be by breaking the bad leadership habits that lead to bad bosses, which in turn leads to engagement and results challenges. We focus on the worst habits and use our proven learning journey methodology to create scalable solutions for our customers that support the acceleration of their cultural aspirations, which is basically the sum of the behaviors and habits of their people.
After solving the Feedback Challenge, we asked our customers what we should build next. Coaching was their answer! So, I began to read some books:
- The Coaching Habit – Michael Bungay Steiner
- Quiet Leadership – David Rock
- Coaching for Performance – Sir John Whitmore
I quickly self-realized that I must get better at enabling my team to find solutions for themselves. I did so by asking provocative questions which lead to a-ha! moments for them. Nothing is more rewarding than seeing their excitement and motivation as the team proposed solutions that were far better than anything I would have ever done. Here are some examples:
- When we began building Magnetic Coaching, our new habit former, I did what I have always done. I approached our design guru and said, “Dustin, this is how we should go about the design. This is how I’ve always done it, and if you do it this way, you’ll do well.” A couple of weeks into the design process and inspired by what I read in “The Coaching Habit,” I wanted to start using questions. When a design challenge was very apparent, I asked, “What do you think we should do?” Dustin’s face lit up with excitement and out came an outstanding idea on a design mechanism that I would never have thought of. That’s when I had an a-ha moment! I realized I let my team down. I assumed because of my experience, my way must be the right way. It's simply not true.
- Towards the end of last year, we wanted to do something cool for our customers. Traditionally we had sent a Christmas card and a little something. Historically I would have said to Alyssa (our marketing genius), “Let’s do something for our customers. How about a personal Christmas card and some generic gift?” Instead I said to Alyssa, “We should do something cool for our customers, what do you think we should do?” A couple of days later she had created a postcard citing our achievements for the year and some custom-made DX cookies. It was brilliant!
In both cases, their motivation and enthusiasm to do what was being asked of them was far greater than I have ever seen before. I later learned through my reading of Quite Leadership that dopamine is released when someone has their own Eureka moment, which is why they are intrinsically motivated. They are both young and without as much experience, but with motivation to figure it out for themselves they knew exactly what we needed to do. And like your teams, they probably have more brainpower and can think of more ways to do things better than you—especially if you think that with your greater experience you know it all!
The concept of Quiet Leadership is a game changer. It cements the concept of asking for ideas from others instead of advising and suggesting things for them. It’s time to stop thinking for your teams! This behavior doesn’t come naturally and the neuroscience backs that up. We aren’t hard-wired to be great coaches. The human brain craves control, so asking questions and empowering people to think for themselves is relinquishing control. Our brains don’t like that! We need to work hard at this habit to have a chance of success.
The first part of habit formation is to know you have room for improvement to begin with. That’s the sickness that the DX team is on a mission to solve! We create the self-awareness and motivation that inspires every leader to strive for improvement and perform better.
You will achieve so much more as a Quiet Leader. I certainly have.
Today I am reviewing all the programs we have designed in the past (like our legacy leadership simulations and Magnetic Feedback), and applying the same theory. In training, we ought to not be telling, advising, and suggesting what leaders can do to get better, we ought to be asking them how they can do things better.
I am truly excited about 2018! This year I will become a more suitable leader, a superior facilitator, an exceptional designer of development programs that will change the workplace, and a more-attentive husband and father.
I will accomplish this with one very simple act: Ask more; tell less.
Learn more about our habit breaker, Magnetic Coaching!