Byron's Babbles

Hearing Every Leader

Posted in Intent Based Leadership, Leadership, Radical Candor, Turn The Ship Around by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on February 28, 2020

Yesterday I blogged Arguing The Value Of Our Experiences Is Futile as the result of inspiration from rereading Kim Scott’s Radical Candor: Be A Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humility. Today’s post is a result of more notes taken while reading. The phrase “listen, challenge, commit” really stuck with me for further reflection.

We need to listen to understand. We need to challenge with respect. We need to then commit ourselves to the decision and the team. If you think about, if we could always get these three things right we would have happy and engaged employees and teammates. Not to mention be successful at carrying out our missions.

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” ~ Stephen R. Covey

We need to listen without agreeing, disagreeing, or interrupting. Just listen intently to understand. When a culture of being able to challenge is developed, the team will always grow. This will create trust and cohesion. We need to explain objections clearly and succinctly. The challenge is about us getting it right; not about someone being right.

If everyone has fully been heard for understanding and differences sorted out, then a commitment can be reached. Everyone has been heard and understood. The important thing here is for everyone to have their voice heard and be valued.

I hear leaders talk about lack of ownership or buy-in. I’m always amazed when I hear “we now need to go get buy-in.” If you are saying that, you have already lost. Team members will be committed when their voices are heard and their ideas used. I’m also amazed at how leaders think they know better than the people closest to the day to day execution. This is what my good friend David Marquet calls “leader-leader” or “intent-based” leadership as opposed to “leader-follower” in his great book Turn The Ship Around: A True Story Of Turning Followers Into Leaders. Marquet argues that decisions need to be made where the data is created. He believes, as do I, everyone is a leader. This is why teacher led schools are so important and why I am so committed to developing teacher leaders.

If this enthuses you, you need to get his latest great book, Leadership Is Language: The Hidden Power Of What You Say And What You Don’t. Bottom line: decisions must be made where they will be executed.

I have blogged about Marquet’s work before in Everyone Is A Leader and Imagine A Place Where Everyone Is A Leader. I so respect David as a friend and great leader who has, like Kim Scott, actually practiced what what what he teaches. I consider the three books referred to in this post as must reads for everyone – since everyone is a leader. In Scott’s book she challenges using the word leadership because we say things like “leadership teams” which gives the appearance that others somehow aren’t leaders or haven’t “arrived” yet as leaders. But, if we go with everyone is a leader, we probably take care of this.

We must involve all team members in decisions, listen to each other, challenge, and then commit. If we believe everyone is a leader, then we need to let every leader be heard. This makes everyone mutually accountable. No more worrying about buy in.

Less “Why” and More “How To”

IMG_6531Recently, I was sitting in on some teacher professional development sessions and I looked over at a teacher’s notes and saw that he had written, “I need less ‘why’, and more ‘how to”. This really struck me because I had just interrupted an earlier session to see how many really thought they would be able to jump right in and do the task being trained on – some thought they could, but many wanted to try it and then have someone ready to help them. Having spent most of my career in the classroom I knew it was thing to have been shown how to do something, and then actually doing it when there were 30+ young scholars staring you in the face.

After seeing this note, I began to think about whether we had become so enamored with always explaining the “why” that we were missing the mark on the “how”. Clearly in these trainings we were for at least one participant. This struck home with me because I believe in my own world I get a lot of “why”, and then there are very few who really understand the “how”. As you will find later in this post, we need both.

I told the teacher after the session that I had seen his note and was interested. He told me it was not being critical, but he needed more time on how to do some of the tasks than so much time on why. I told him this made total sense. Really, the why should be about the vision in a quick statement of the importance and not a dissertation, or what turns into a chance for the presenter to pontificate and gain self gratification. Many times, I have found, this is because the person presenting does not understand how to do the task very well themselves.

The more I thought about this, I realized we have become very “into” talking about the “why” of everything. I get it! I really do, but because of all the writing about the “why” I believe we are forgetting to develop the “how” to the same extent. Even though the title of Simon Sinek’s great book Start With Why focuses on the “why,” he still told us that there must be those doing the “how.” For example, without Roy Disney, Walt Disney’s vision would never have been carried out. Thinking about all this brought to mind one of my favorite parts of L. David Marquet’s great book Turn The Ship Around! A True Story of Turning Followers Into Leaders. Marquet explained to us in the book that when practicing intent-based leadership, where everyone is a leader, we must provide the needed technical training or it will be chaos. Genius, right! I might know “why” I need to put a fire out on a submarine, but if I don’t know “how” it becomes a bigger problem. So I might add to Simon Sinek’s Start With Why, “Finish With How”.

Think about it from a school perspective; if I spend an hour telling you how important taking accurate attendance is each period for high school students and why each period will be analyzed and rolled into the daily attendance, but then don’t spend the majority of the time making sure you understand the management program (technology) and how to use it, I have failed you. Also, we would need to make sure you understand the best practices of taking proper attendance at the beginning of the period and then updating for individual circumstances that happen during the period. I believe you get the idea, but it has become to easy and “cool” to just spend time on the “why” because that is the latest buzz phrase – “gotta tell them the why.” I’m cool with that, but make sure I understand “how to” too!

How about you? Do you need less “why”, and more “how to”?