Whether you are the leader of a change team (or any team for that matter), or whether you are a change practitioner supporting leaders, this Inc. article by Jeff Haden has an important message: “Exceptional leaders never speak first. Neither should you.”
What happens when we speak first? We tend to ask questions that support the conclusions we have come to. We ask leading and limiting questions. We invite supportive statements rather than questions that challenge and explore. We force people to openly disagree. We “shut off the flow of better ideas.”
Haden offers an approach that not only avoids these problems; it provides the opportunity for better solutions.
Present the problem. Don’t frame the situation in terms of a proffered solution; present the situation. “Don’t you think we should go ahead and ship the order?” prompts very different responses than “What do you think we should do about that order?”
Ask open-ended questions. As Haden says, “then shut up and let people think. Don’t rush to fill the silence.”
Only speak to clarify. Once you start judging the responses you are getting, you shut people down.
Always speak last. You already know what you know. Your goal is to find out what other people know. So stay quiet and listen.
There is one important caveat that this article does not address. None of this will work unless you have established a climate of trust.
Brian Gorman is the Managing Editor of Change Management Review™. In this capacity he regularly curates articles of importance to our readership; contributes original writing; hosts podcasts; and works with guest authors.
For more than five decades Brian has been engaged in—and a student of—change at the personal, organizational, and societal levels. During this time, he has worked with both individuals and organizations (ranging from solo practitioners to Fortune 100 businesses), guiding them through a wide array of challenges. Decades of experience have given him a deep appreciation of the universal patterns that underlie successfully navigating even the most difficult changes.
In addition to his work as our Managing Editor, Brian is a transformation coach, supporting both individual and organizational change. Brian is committed to passing his “lessons learned” on to others, so that their change journeys can advance more smoothly. He is a frequent workshop facilitator and public speaker. Brian is the author of “The Hero and the Sherpa,” a chapter in the online Handbook of Personal and Organizational Transformation (Springer Publishing; Judi Neal, Editor). He also has an extensive library of blog posts, articles, and videos on the change journey, including “The Ten Most Important Lessons I Have Learned Over 50 Years of Engaging Change.”
Mr. Gorman’s formal education includes a BA in Cultural Anthropology from Syracuse University, an MA in Higher Education Administration from the University of Texas, San Antonio and an MA in Human Relations from the University of Oklahoma.
Brian is an International Coach Federation (ICF) certified coach, and is an active member in the New York City chapter. Brian is also a member of the Forbes Coaches Council and the Gay Coaches Alliance.
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