“The really outstanding leaders are people who first listen and get people to tell what they think and what they know. And then to put that all together for a higher order integration. That’s real leadership.” (Daniel Goleman, interview with Harvard Business Review)
Dan Goleman gives a beautiful explanation of what powerful listening can be and how it is, to me, the most effective tool in working towards change in interaction with people. Look through their eyes and see if you can envision the change you have in mind.
Genuine attention is a very intriguing source of energy. While engaging in interaction to change a certain situation I try to start for the assumption that I have no real solution. I may have my ideas, views and opinions, but the real solution for every interaction will be born in that interaction. Think of it as a little seed, planted somewhere in the ground we share beneath our feet. By caring for this ground and that particular seed, by paying attention to it instead of turning it into a battlefield, I may be capable of allowing something beautiful to grow out of our meeting.
Great leaders know how genuine attention can make small ideas grow into big changes. They also know that they can do nothing but enable the change, maybe also encourage it. But the real drive for change comes from within the seed, from within the person you’ll work with, from within everybody you engage with.
“Leading effectively is, in other words, less about mastering situations—or even mastering social skill sets—than about developing a genuine interest in and talent for fostering positive feelings in the people whose cooperation and support you need.” (“Social Intelligence and the Biology of Leadership”, Daniel Goleman & Richard Boyatzis, Harvard Business Review September 2008)
What if your first assumption about someone you negotiate with is: “you have a talent to help me”? How would that change the way you see that person? How would that alter your conversation, your thoughts?
What if your first assumption about someone you coach/assist is: “you have a talent to help yourself”? How would that change the way you approach your client? How would that alter your questioning?
“A more relationship-based construct for assessing leadership is social intelligence, which we define as a set of interpersonal competencies built on specific neural circuits (and related endocrine systems) that inspire others to be effective.” (Daniel Goleman & Richard Boyatzis)
Notice the word “effective”. Why are they saying effective instead of efficient?
Here’s a small exercise. Take the next thing you’re about to do after finishing reading this post. Try to figure out 7 ways to be effective. Now figure out 7 ways to be efficient. What’s the difference?
“Mirror neurons have particular importance in organizations, because leaders’ emotions and actions prompt followers to mirror those feelings and deeds. The effects of activating neural circuitry in followers’ brains can be very powerful.” (Daniel Goleman & Richard Boyatzis)
In short, could you be the change you want to see in your company? Ok, I sort of borrowed that from Ghandi but can you really be that change? Or can you at least imagine what it’s like to experience that change?
Goleman and Boyatzis mention an experiment where one group received negative feedback but in a very positive way (smiles, laughter, …). Another group received positive feedback but the body language of the messenger was negative. Guess which group felt better and which felt worse? Right.
“And everybody knows that when people feel better, they perform better. So, if leaders hope to get the best out of their people, they should continue to be demanding but in ways that foster a positive mood in their teams. The old carrot-and-stick approach alone doesn’t make neural sense; traditional incentive systems are simply not enough to get the best performance from followers.” (Daniel Goleman & Richard Boyatzis)