Wouldn’t it be great if every time you walked away from a conversation, you knew you’d left the other person feeling more valued, more capable and more brilliant?
I have a colleague who can do just that for me and the others who work with him. We enjoy working with this person not just because of his skills or contribution to projects, but also because of his knack for bringing out our best.
How does he do it?
The key seems to be in what he doesn’t do.
This guy actually doesn’t give a lot of input of his own. Unlike most of us, he has a remarkable lack of desire to add his two cents to every discussion. Instead, he pulls a dollar or two out of the rest of us. He is an engaged listener who asks clarifying questions. As we answer, his whole body communicates openness, interest, and the sense that he’s impressed. His eyebrows lift, he smiles, and he nods. His questions are open-ended and tend to be short and to the point. He leaves room for us to expand on our own ideas.
The truly impressive thing about this guy is that he’s not our peer – he’s our leader. We think of the leader as the one who’s running the show, but that’s not how it feels here. It feels like we’re the MVPs. I think it’s because he really listens and chooses not to “add value” to every idea he hears.
The average leader can’t listen to someone tell them something they already know without communicating “I already knew that – I know a better way.” By listening with interest and asking insightful questions, our guy gives the opposite impression: that we’re the wisest, brightest and best around. As a result, that’s who we want to be.
Wouldn’t it be great to have that kind of impact?
Sounds like a great example of a “servant leader.” Old models of managing are being shown to be ineffective. You must be grateful for a workplace where individuals are valued and where their own ideas are nurtured and embraced.
Thanks for your comment, Dan! In your book “No More Mondays,” you write about how managers need to understand the way people want to work today. I am grateful for the ways our leaders seem to do that – nurturing creativity and wise risk-taking by treating us as if we’re self-employed and running our own “shop.”