Leadership: An easy silence?

In an earlier post I was considering the difference between Feedback and Criticism.   If you are interested you can read about it here:

feb 2012 feedback-or-criticism

I was reminded of it a week or so back when I was with a few participants on a  short course. We were discussing some aspects of blogging. I am in a phase of very intense learning which I expect is going to last a long time.  A pattern of learn consolidate, learn consolidate, seems to work best for me.  I have to experience and play with what I am learning. I have to TOY with it. I appreciated the feedback I received, it was part of the learn consolidate cycle.

Giving and receiving feedback is essential to learning change and growth, for individuals personal relationships, as well as in teams and organisations.

You tend to find that there is more learning from the consolidation phases than you can easily quantify or imagine.  The feedback is unexpected and more powerful. The learning itself becomes much broader learning, as discernment comes into play. What started out as practising the skill you learned becomes something bigger when you DO IT  in real life. You start to generate different questions than when you were doing something in the simple process of learning it.

If you are curious many of those questions will be internal.  Whilst you learn in isolation you learn to accept silence. As you start to practice what you are learning in context – which means in public –  you start to experience feedback.

This feedback can come in many forms, from how your body feels as you start to change your diet, to how well your clothes fit when you stop exercising. The impact of your actions has an effect.
The effect you have is feedback.

When you change your actions because you have learned something new, there will be a reaction of some sort from the wider system. The same applies in teams and organisations. If you change the way you do something, hopefully it will have an effect, an impact on others, in the way you planned. It is also likely to have an effect in unexpected ways. Feedback will arrive. It might be in conversations to you, it might be with suggestions or complaints.

It also might be silence. Silence is a special sort of feedback and your job as a leader is to be sure what that silence means.

Acceptance: are people thinking “well yes that works, nothing to say, let’s get on with it” ? On the surface this could be a great thing, people are ” aligned” and “professional”. It could be a deep appreciation for the reasons and the context behind the changes and a realisation it is a good thing to do. If you work with a team like that the chances are you have spent time building up that level of awareness. People are getting on with it because they are 80-100 per cent behind it.

Have you spent that time? Are they 80-100 percent behind it?
If the answer to both those questions is an honest yes, the changes you are making have a very good chance of being successful.

My opinion isn’t important / what do I know: If you are working in an environment that requires “intellectual  capital” this is an attitude that MUST be explored. Is it a new inexperienced team member? Is the person losing confidence?  What factors might be at play that has led the person (or people)  you are leading to think their opinion doesn’t matter? How have you demonstrated their role is to think about and comment on what is happening because that is how THEY  and YOU and the ORGANISATION learn?

Apathy: This is evident when people  no longer provide any verbal feedback of any sort, no comments, no questions, no adjustments, no counter suggestions. Has there ever been a time when you did get commentary, questions and observations but it has all stopped?
Chances are the silence  is apathy. Apathy is very limiting. For the people affected it can be soul and career destroying. If you want your changes to have long-term positive impact, apathy is something that has to be investigated in its own right. What are the causes? Take the time to understand how and when the apathy arose. Don’t assume that the silence of apathy will still give your changes a good chance of success, it won’t. Apathy has a close neighbour.

Fear: People can be fearful for all sorts of reasons. Permanent fearlessness is a rare and potentially dangerous attribute. Even the most forthright people have times when fear sets in. Observant, intelligent people  ( the sort you want to lead right?) consider the consequences of their actions in advance. They learn from what has happened in the past too. Both of these qualities are essential for any success to happen. However if fear is the root of the silence and you don’t explore it, failure is likely. There is nothing inherently wrong with fear. This is evolution at work.  The emotion of fear is behind freeze, flight or fight responses. If Fear leads to silence anyone  of those responses could ensue. Silently

Not being able to function well – Frozen.

Not wanting to hang around, leaving early, doing the hours, resignations – Flight

Being angry, unhelpful and presenting obstacles that don’t need to be there – Fight

Silence is at best the result of conversation and deep mutual understanding. Which takes commitment and time and honesty. Only then will  the silence be an easy silence

Taking the time to reflect on the feedback you are getting, particularly if it is silence becomes essential when leading and making change happen. Investigate where the silence comes from before making assumptions.

And if you find you don’t like continued silence, give some of your own, in a generous and helpful way.

Feedback is the life blood of change. Donate

 

What effect does silence have on you? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

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What did it for you?

This post stems from a conversation had in a coffee break over a year ago now, in the land of the Red Rose. I had the answer then ( for me) but I’ve played with it a bit in my head ( and in reality since)

We’d been talking about Hands and the enormous amount of brain connectivity  that is given over to the hands both for sensory function and motor function, proportionate to other parts of the body..

There is a superb One minute Twelve second video about it here take the time and watch it. You will smile!

Homunculus

Two initial examples cropped up in conversation. Despite the person concerned being highly educated and still having “insatiable curiousity” about the world, and dedicating time to learning new stuff as well as mastery old stuff, despite having  travelled the world, met interesting people and listened to them:

The skill named?  Touch Typing.

Because no matter what job, role or business they were in whether typing up notes, reports, writing marketing materials, searching the  internet, developing thoughts and ideas. Having the skill to touch fingers to the keyboard gave a fluidity of thought.  Practical? Of course.  Much better than that: a freedom of mind because the fingers could move swiftly to recording..without paralysing the thoughts.

For me, it was a different example. I can sort of touch type, I am looking at the screen as I do this not the keyboard and I am relatively fast. I am not in the same league as a touch typist. We discussed how in some colleges this certainly used to be a mandatory skill everyone was taught, and what a great idea. A sort of driving test for the fingers, giving freedom of thought movement.

Discussing this with other writers subsequently there has been an interesting response. Some need pencil and paper to think to get their ideas down. Some can send their thoughts straight to their fingers via the keyboard. Personally if an idea is clear, it will come out whole using a keyboard. If there is still some work to be done on the thoughts, in the end the swiftest way to get there for me, is completely manual. A hunt will ensue for a writing implement and the back of an envelope if no sheets of paper are around.

I’ve blithly summarised what must be an exhaustive set of things that being able to Touch Type has made a  significant difference to. I know because it was not my personal experience that I have massively understated it.

The person I was talking to is a highly visual person.

Initially my thoughts went to literacy. Being able to read early gave me transport into other worlds, and minds. Being able to read means the internet is an infinite playground for me. Literacy is the passport to so many things without which life in the 21st century would be permanently hobbled. Literacy it seemed  wasn’t the right answer for me. It didn’t sound right. But it was close to it.

As a highly auditory person, I listen for HOW things sound. Even when reading it is a sort of combined  auditory and visual experience. Of course typing adds in another sensory experience and one using the hands so a lot of neuro connectivity there.

In the end it became startlingly obvious what it was for me. Learning to read music.

Learning to read music as a child was useful in the moment, because I could start to play music with others because of it. And I LOVED doing that.  But later in life the realisation has come that so many things that feel innate were developed from that time, were given some magic boosts.

Learning to read music gave me:

An understanding of symbology

An understanding of rhythm and tone

An appreciation of harmony and dischord

Because I could read music, I learned a few instruments and sang. Because I did that, I developed more brain hand connections. Because I did that  my music playing ( as  child!) developed. Because my technical skill developed, I learned to play in groups. Because of that I learned to Listen to HOW things sounded. Because I did that I learned to work in a team for something unimaginable and greater than me. Because I learned that I learned about responsibility to the group and to myself. Because I played in wider groups I was exposed to all sorts of different people, through the music and through the people I played with I was exposed to different cultures and different stories. Because I learned that …

List goes on.

What Pivotal thing, what skill was it that you learned early on, that when you look back  you know was the foundation and the stepping stone to things you have done subsequently?

What was it?

And are you actively using and honouring it today?

Comments are enabled so I would love to hear, please chime in.

What did it for you?

3 what challenge?

A few days back I took the decision to unplug my television for 30 days. I thought it would be hard but so far it hasnt been. 

I didn’t do this because I wanted to go without something. I did it because I wanted space for other stuff. 

I haven’t gone completely cold turkey, I have the iplayer so I can watch a handful of programmes if I feel the need.

I’ve also replaced it with the radio, but chiefly programmes that play music and are not full of chatter. Oh lovely radio, my Mother’s friend that greeted me at breakfast and when I came in from school or back from university. 

The music has been a delight, random, (for me) as in someone else chooses what I hear and I just accept it. Sometimes the piece is an old friend, other times something new, sometimes it warms my heart, takes me to a sad place, a happy place. Sometimes it takes me back in time. Sometimes I don’t like the piece ( fortunately not too often)  but I stick with it and see what arises. 

Sometimes I lose awareness of the radio as I get on with other activities and then suddenly the radio is very present all around me. I pick up on something as it chimes with a thought. 

Is this praise of radio or of music. Am I enjoying the enabler or the enabled? 

Anyway, turning off the telly is just one absence that has made way for something else.

I am issuing myself a challenge now for 30 days – though I think it will become a habit. At the end of each day I am going to ask myself 

3 Whats

What  new thing did I learn today

What new thing did I do today

What else made today unique

 

Just at the end of the day I will ask. I won’t – as far as is consciously possible – plan for each day in advance.

I will record my answers, without justification and move through the time without review until the end.

 

I

The difference between learning and being taught is love

There are things we do in life that we enjoy and there are things we do in life that we LOVE.

It is this love that keeps the flame burning when evidence suggests perhaps we should be the strategist that knows when to quit. It is this love that calls on Churchill’s never never never never give up.

There is learning something, which you are responsible for. And there is being taught something which you are not responsible for. You own learning. Someone else owns tuition.  When the two exist in consenting partnership it is a superb arrangement for all.

The power in the end is with the learner.

If you want to master something if you  are after mastery and artistry, you learn it. You may find good Teachers (note the capital T) and you may submit to a period of apprenticeship because this is a useful path to mastery.

However inside you are more than a recipient of someone else’s teaching, inside you are doing your own things with it.

You are noticing and practicing, you are seeking out wider opportunities. Even in environments when you appear to be doing something else entirely, inside you are still assimilating, cogitating, deconstructing. You are playing. Your dreams are shaped by it. It isn’t all  hard work – mostly it’s a core bit of your being alive and exhilarated and inspired.

There is toil at times but the joy drug is regularly present and the memory of it, through times of toil, is never far away

Love exists here.  The love of the thing you are learning or the love of learning or ideally, both. You love what you are learning and because you love it you want to learn more and keep on learning more.

Love is learning. Tuition is toleration.

Sometimes along the way, you need to acquire some skills that support the thing you love but isn’t the thing you love. The quickest route is to find a good teacher, be taught it, be taught the thing, the skill.  Even take some pride and joy in the acquisition.

And then get back to the thing you love. Get back to learning, get back to the path of mastery.

Tuition is  techniques and facts – finite

Learning is art  and intangible  – infinite.

What are you learning?