Books

Powerless Communication?

Earlier this year I shared the thesis of a workshop I designed and facilitated for the Robert Toigo Foundation Groundbreakers Women in Leadership conference…Confident AND Collaborative Communication. I explored the challenge of balancing confident and collaborative styles that allow us to share our unique perspectives with confidence, while maintaining the ability to engage others through collaboration.

The session was very well received and the Robert Toigo Foundation has asked me to facilitate a similar session in 2015 for young professionals of color on their way to top MBA programs. As I continue to explore the topic in preparation for the upcoming session, I discovered the concept of powerless communication in Adam Grant’s book Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success. Check out previous blog posts including Givers, Takers and Matchers and The Secret Sauce of Successful Giving for more information about this thought-provoking book.

Grant’s thesis on the subject of communication is that powerless communication is more effective than powerful communication, with a few exceptions detailed below. Powerless communication techniques include asking questions, talking tentatively, showing vulnerability, and seeking advice. Powerful communication includes offering answers, talking boldly, displaying strength and sharing one’s own point of view. Through powerless communication, he argues, we are able to make stronger connections, build trust, and persuade and negotiate more successfully. The positive outcomes of powerless communication include better collaboration, building stronger networks, and ultimately garnering greater influence.

So while I advocate for balancing confident (powerful) with collaborative (powerless) communication, Grant would argue that powerless communication is almost always more effective. The exceptions he suggests are (1) when you really are incompetent regarding a particular subject, in which case powerless communication will reinforce your lack of knowledge, whereas powerful speak will make you appear more competent, […]

The Secret Sauce of Successful Giving

Earlier this month in the posting Givers, Takers and Matchers, I shared with you that I was reading a book called Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success. I had only completed the first few chapters and had learned that the social style that correlates most with success is giver. The twist was that givers are also the least successful. The open question to be revealed upon further reading was…what separates the two? What is the secret sauce? Having completed the book, I can now reveal the answer!

Without knowing it, I was stumbling upon the answer when I wrote, “Being purely selfless alone does not for success make.” In fact, being purely selfless is exactly what lands a giver at the bottom of the success ladder. Unsuccessful givers are termed “selfless givers” by author Grant and are distinguished from successful givers who are termed “otherish givers.” Otherish givers work in service of others AND in their own self interest, versus selfless givers who focus only on others at the expense of their own self interest.

Otherish givers focus on creating win-win outcomes. They are adept at expanding the pie because they can see the other’s perspective and create value for all. Otherish givers are trusting until they have reason not too be, empathetic when appropriate, and advocate for their needs as well as those of others. Finally, they are not afraid to ask for help and build networks so that they are not always carrying the burden alone.

Because they lack a healthy dose of self interest, selfless givers can be too trusting, empathetic and timid. They can end up exhausted and burnt out because they are uncomfortable receiving support. They can also be taken advantage […]

Givers, Takers and Matchers

 

I am currently reading a book called Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success.  I am only a couple of chapters in, but the premise being explored is fascinating…and even before knowing how it unfolds, I want to introduce you to this fascinating work.

The author, Adam Grant, describes three types of people:  givers, takers and matchers.  Givers tend to be focused on others more than their own needs; takers like to get more than they give; and matchers give and take based upon the principle of fair exchange.   The research correlating these social styles with success finds that the most AND the least successful people are givers.  What I have not yet learned is what differentiates the successful givers from those that find themselves at the bottom of the success ladder.  This will be revealed as I continue reading.

I am reminded of my posting on September 17 last year asking What Kind of  Leader Do You Want To Be?  The leadership styles discussed in that posting, based upon the work of Pastor Bill Hybels from the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit, are two — legacy leaders who are much like givers, and hirelings who are much like takers.

What I like about Grant’s framework is that it is less black and white and underscores that the same seemingly positive orientation toward giving can have a positive or negative affect on ones success.  Being purely selfless alone does not for success make.  There is some other ingredient that makes it all work.  In addition, he isolates a third style, matchers, which according to his research describes most people.  Relatively fewer of us are singularly focused on others or self…but rather, more of us operate from a place of fairness and […]

Building A Culture One Coaching Conversation At A Time

Welcome to JoinDrPam.  For the past several weeks we have focused on some of the challenges and opportunities of leadership: the dark side of performance differentiation, how leaders show up during turbulent times, and how leaders can build culture through coaching.   This week I want to continue the discussion regarding how leaders build culture, focused more specifically on building a culture of personal accountability.

Culture has been defined as “how we do things around here and what we value.”  Leaders signal what they value by how they spend their time and what they focus on.  As such, I think the questions that leaders ask as they walk around and engage with employees are critical. Additionally, how they respond both in the moment, and over time, to what they hear during those walk abouts will influence culture.

One of the questions that leaders are taught to ask in order to show concern and to connect to the front line employee is “what can we do to make your job easier?” Maybe the question that leaders should be asking to drive cultures of ownership and accountability is “what are you doing to improve your ability to do your job, and how can I help?” Firstly, is it the job of a leader to make other people’s jobs easier?  Some jobs are tough! Secondly, is it the job of the leader to identify those things which will improve the ability of the employee to have impact and deliver value?  Finally, once employees have identified their needs, perhaps it is the job of the leader to wherever possible help them meet those needs.  And when it is not possible to deliver on what people have asked for, how can the leader coach others to accept […]