Listening instead of yelling

The definition of a new kind of leadership constantly pops up in conversations. Older leaders don’t really dare to lead and the younger ones think, “Is there even a need for leaders in general?”

What to lead?

I had an interesting conversation with a nineteen-year-old man who had done sports throughout his entire youth. Whenever it’s about an athletic performance – he tries his best. In the cursed Cooper’s test he wasn’t the one that hid behind the locker room and started following in the last round and announced he’d ran 3100, no, he actually ran the whole way and lastly told on the cheaters.

We also discussed a couple other athletic performances where he said he’d done as agreed, even though some slipped.

Previously, I had read a writing by an important opinion leader on LinkedIn where one trait for a good leader was said to be yelling. The writing encouraged yelling to ensure that the listener would understand it’s a really important thing.

What?

The writing had been liked by 2000 smart-seeming people all over the world. Some mild counter-arguments had appeared in the comment section. I wonder if among the supporters were those who recognized the same trait and approach in themselves and for that reason were looking for acceptance for their behavior? “That’s what the others are doing too so it’s totally ok to continue in the same way.”

After this, the young athlete guy told his own experience of a good coach:

If the football match had flopped and the whole team was accompanied to the locker room by yelling, it didn’t increase motivation. The coach just confirmed what the whole team knew after the match. At the same time the coach lost his self-control or hopefully at least regretted his yelling at some point.

Instead the athlete remembered this coach’s behavior, again after a lost match, significantly better: the coach had followed the team after the flopped match to the locker room, and couldn’t say a thing. The whole team knew they had failed and shared the unspoken feeling of disappointment. The coach exited silently after 5 minutes stating only, “See you on Monday with a new spark.” Surely sharing the emotional state without words worked better than yelling with words.

Finding a coaching leadership

My intent is not to defend the culture of silence but rather coaching appropriately to the situation. Sharing feelings in silence can be coaching if the team has a close connection and trust in each other.

I have personally worked with a couple of yelling leaders and colleagues. The experiences of my colleagues and myself have been uniform: the yeller loses both face and their reliability in both that situation and in the future. Unfortunately, one intentional or unintentional yelling fit can change the impression of an admired and respected top leader into an unstable and unpredictable despot.

There cannot be a thing so important to say that the message wouldn’t get across without yelling. In addition, if the yelling is done by the leader, he has such a big influence over the ones subjected to the yelling that after the yelling no one dares to question the yeller’s dominance anymore.

Surely, at least one of the signs of a new, good leadership is #notyelling and #listening? How about a yelling-prone leader first asking, “How did that go in your own opinion?” and listening to the answers first?

 

A setback to working life’s #humane change

I was wrong – the year of 2016 was not the year of working life’s and companies’ #humane change. Now everyone interested can let out a sigh of relief. Let’s forget all the vague slogans and big talk about soft leading and emotional leading. Let’s continue talking about the clear and predictable effect that digitalization and the influence of robots have on working life.

When I started preaching about the #humane change, many people nodded their head and wished me good luck. A bit similar to how big enterprises have their values, equality plans and social responsibility written down. Those are nice and valuable things that everyone sees as important on a principled level. When it comes to practical working life, however, those are quite distant things in everyday working culture.

Making this big #humane change did not succeed by vaguely changing the whole working life to be more humane at one fell swoop.

Instead, together with a hundred people, we learned, a little bit accidentally, that:

  1. A humane change is possible by taking responsibility of your own doings and by identifying your characteristic ways of operating. Only then you can consciously start changing the way you do things.
  2. After this you are able to accept your colleagues, superiors and customers with their own qualities and habits.
  3. Only then it is possible to make #humane changes on a company level, when the culture is ready for it.

After this there is no need to look for mistakes or someone to blame from other people or vaguely from the company.

A simple and familiar recipe. In practice, it is quite difficult if it is not encouraged or if the possibility isn’t given.

 

Let me rephrase that: It was not the time for the working life’s #humane change, yet

But for many people, the time of their own #humane change has begun. In the future of working life, there won’t be such a consistent concept as working life or big corporations to take care of individual employees’ willingness or unwillingness to change. Nor will there be mass coaching where an overpowering employee or customer experience is created. We must make the changes ourselves: by guiding, developing and leading ourselves, and, at best, by employing ourselves. This can be quite difficult alone as well if you don’t get support for it, at least in the beginning.

 

How did I come to this conclusion?

I learned this from our clients, who, as forerunners, wanted and dared to make small humane changes together. The progress happened along the way and the result was: happier employees and customers, and financial success.

I want to thank all those brave people with whom we’ve made small changes to working life during this past year. Sometimes really stumbling, cursing and laughing with tears in our eyes. I want to talk about small personal changes because, cliché or not – through them big changes are possible. The scale of the change, however, is defined by everyone themselves.

We’ve experienced the best moments when after a long silence or some thinking, I’ve seen the interlocutor’s eyes fill with courage, a brave spark—the willingness to take responsibility for themselves and their own doings. Admitting that these are my characteristic ways of doing and thinking. I call this humanity towards the self.

From the bottom of my heart, I am thankful for all the lessons learned and ideas, and the possibility to help push people forward.

The year of 2017 will therefore be the year of #humane self-leadership. At the end of next year, we’ll see how right or wrong I was.

If you are interested in hearing more about these solutions, please feel free to contact us.

Wishing you a wonderful Christmas and a happy New Year,

Mervi