Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Helpful Book for Coaches and Managers: "Quiet Leadership" by David Rock

Rock, CEO of Results Coaching System, has written a coaching book that draws on recent discoveries in neuroscience and behavioral science to offer insights into the most effective ways to lead people to make positive changes in their behavior. I found the book very helpful in thinking about the ways in which I work with executives and emerging leaders to encourage them to achieve maximum performance. At times, Rock's methodology feels a bit too "touchy-feely" for my tatses, but the overall good of the book outweighs any negatives.

According to Rock, a leader's job "should be to help people make their own connections." The subtitles of the book reinforce this assertion: "Six Steps to Transforming Performance at Work; Help People Think Better - Don't Tell Them What to Do!"

He details the six steps for encouraging growth:

Think About Thinking - let people think things through without telling them what to do, while remaining "solutions-focused"

Listen for Potential - be a sounding board for employees and those you are coaching

Speak with Intent - clarify and streamline conversation

Dance Toward Insight - communicate in ways that promote other people's insights

CREATE New Thinking - which stands for Current Reality, Explore Alternatives and Tap Their Energy, an acronym about "helping people turn their insights into habits"

Follow Up - to ensure ongoing improved performance.

In the section in which he lays out the Six Steps, Rock offers insight into why it is so rare in our culture to offer truly helpful and constructive feedback.

"As a society we not only want to be comfortable, we also have an unspoken conspiracy about not wanting to make anyone else uncomfortable, physically, mentally or emotionally. We're worried about losing friends, about upsetting people, about lawsuits. We'd much rather leave the status quo as it is. It's no wonder it's hard for leaders to improve performance, given this requires people to feel uncomfortable. It's almost on the level of a cultural taboo." (Page 54)

In discussing how to break that taboo, Rock offers some helpful suggestions that echoes some of the best advice I was ever given about reinforcing positive behavior: "When you 'catch' someone doing something right, elaborately and publicly praise them very specifically for the positive thing they have accomplished."

This is the way that rock expresses the same truth:

"If we want to transform people's performance we need to master the skill of acknowledgment. This means building new mental wiring around seeing what people are doing well. It means watching out for how people are challenging themselves, growing, learning, and developing. And it means noticing the new wiring others are developing, and being able to feed back what we see in ways that make a difference." (Page 62)

Let me end by sharing two quotations that Rock uses to reinforce his main points:

"The future belongs to people who see possibilities before they become obvious." Ted Leavitt, circa 1990 (Page 72)

"The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function." F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940) (Page 159)

In this book, Rock encourages readers to see possibilities on others become they become obvious to others, and to encourage those they are leading and coaching to think in new ways that creatively exploring alternatives. This is a book I will give as a gift to others who seek to shape leaders.



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