One of the benefits of facilitating our in-house Servant Leadership program is getting to meet a wide variety of people and seeing how Leadership is both practiced and seen across the bank. A number of patterns are emerging, one of which can be nicely summed up in a sentence I hear at practically every workshop, “If they had something to say, they would speak up! I do!”. Variations on this include, “So now I have to ask people for their opinion ? I don’t have time for that, we are all professionals, if they have something to say they should just say it!”

Which is normally when the introverts in the group (often the majority), switch off! If we are fortunate it takes a morning of watching videos of how everyone is working together for the boisterous participants to start to get quiet. For possibly the first time ever, they start to experience and observe for themselves the impact they have when they own the bandwidth and don’t create space and invitations for everyone to participate. Invariably they also discover that they may have led the team down the wrong road and that if they had taken the time to explore everyone’s perspectives, they may have discovered that one of the ‘useless’ quiet ones actually had the answer.

The awareness that the quiet voices also add value and knowledge and that we just operate differently, comes as a surprise to most. The idea that for some of us it is almost impossible to break into conversation unless you stop and invite us we, is completely alien.

It gets even more interesting when the loud ones choose to be quiet and start to experience being lost and invisible in a group! They don’t like it, not at all! And often, they have no ability to get themselves back in, it isn’t something they have had to practice before. There old habits if cutting in and speaking over people are ignored now the the group as the previously disenfranchised quiet ones resist having their space taken over again. This is when we start to have the conversations that matter! This is when it all becomes real and we start to see what the individual impact is when we  love from a command and control mindset.

These are the moments that make it all worth while, when a group really starts to see each other as people, rather than resources. These are the moments that slowly start to shift our culture from command and control (where a few voices hold all the space and power and the rest are dismissed and diminished and merely there to do as they are told, living in a space where they are meaningless and have little to no value other than through executing someone else’s ideas) to a space where we all get to participate, where we all have value and the merging and blending of what we all know creates something more valuable and more effective.

What I have started to notice is how seldom we see the impact we have on others and how quick we are to justify our actions, “But the quiet guys don’t want to be put on the spot, they don’t want to talk, they want to be left alone ”

Really ? How do you know that is true ? When last did you check that assumption ?

The long and short of it is that most of us are really lousy observers – both of ourselves and of the impact we have on others! Becoming a better observer just isn’t something we know about or have exposure to. Yet I suspect it may be one of the keys to becoming more impactful as individuals and so as leaders (and is one of the reasons I am a huge fan of Ontological Coaching. It is all about becoming a better observer)

So, how are you showing up ?

Are you one of the loud voices who is inadvertently taking away from others ?

Or are you one of th quiet voices, silently giving away your power and value and being a supporting partner in the command and control Paradigm ?

What is your impact on the people around you?

What is your impact on the process and flow of the work ?

What knowledge is sitting in the quiet voices that you aren’t taking the time to find ?

What if everything you think you know about being a leader is no longer valid ?

(The in-house Servant Leadership program is based on the book, The Skilled Facilitator by Roger Schwartz and is a 3 day behavior lab based on a set of 9 conversation ground rules. The focus is on using experiential learning and observation through video to create awareness of and facilitate a shift from command and control to a mutual learning culture by allowing participants to observe how they are showing up and how they are using the two models, and hopeful to create an experience of what it is like in the mutual learning model that is significantly different to a normal day at work )