Issue #58
#58 - Lessons from leaders on using quiet as a superpower
March 17, 2023

What's up, everybody?

You know, we just can't shake this idea of quiet.

Last year in issue #32, we curated this quote from Steven Spielberg:

And I've always said to my kids, the hardest thing to listen to -- your instincts, your human personal intuition -- always whispers; it never shouts. Very hard to hear. So you have to every day of your lives be ready to hear what whispers in your ear; it very rarely shouts.

The question we asked at the time was: "In a world flooded with more and more noise, how do we make sure we're able to hear our own inner voice, which only ever whispers to us?"

A few months later in issue #37 we took it up a level and featured a quote that suggested that part of a manager's job was to "create quiet for their team".

Today, we re-explore what happens when we create quiet for our teams. Not the way Kieran defines it above 👆🏻 though, figuratively; as an exercise in simplicity or clarity. Instead, our 3 Stories this week are about the benefits that accrue -- to our teams, and to ourselves -- when we literally create quiet for our teams:

Story #1 - We learn the mantra that a long-time Salesforce exec chants to himself, over and over in meetings, to make sure he keeps others talking.
Story #2 - The two-time CEO of Procter & Gamble shares the one, simple question he asks himself at the start of every week to ensure he's a leader who listens (and learns).
Story #3 - A short, wonderful quote reminds us of the power we hold -- and can gift to our teams -- when we "don't fill the space with our own words."

Thanks for reading and exploring with us -- and have a great week!

Aki + Usman

P.S. Our podcast of last week's issue #57 -- "Laugh n' learn about the changing world of work? Yes, please" -- is right here.


#Leadership #Listening #Quiet #Space

What soundtrack do you play yourself at work?

No, not the playlist of jams you bop to in your office chair. 🕺🏻 We mean the mantra you repeat over and over to yourself; like this one, from the former CIO of Salesforce:

Don't tell. Ask questions. Don't tell. Ask questions.

By this point, mind you, Mulcahy is15-years tenured in senior leadership roles at Salesforce and the World Economic Forum. He's clearly aware of the need to "say less"; to explain and pontificate less. He's enjoyed the upsides of that restraint. And yet he still chants this refrain to himself. One wonders, by the way: at what point on the journey did the music fade into the background; when did his effort turn from active, to passive?


#Leadership #Listening #Curiosity #Conviction

"What am I going to be curious about this week?"

What a wonderful question. ⬆️ As much for its sense of play -- one pictures a child entering a room full of toys -- as its simplicity.

From the article, here’s the context and rationale for why Lafley began asking this:

There’s another way to increase your chances of encountering novel ideas and information and discerning weak signals: being quiet. This is not typical behavior for CEOs, who are generally expected to be in broadcast mode, delivering words of inspiration, explanation, and unambiguous direction.
That is the default setting for CEOs for sound reasons. But it will never open a window onto things you don’t know you don’t know. So for some significant portion of your time, you have to stop transmitting messages and switch over to receiving them.

Lafley’s childlike curiosity, it turns out, is born of the realization that a leader needs to create the time and space to listen and receive: to discern weak signals, and to better understand what they don’t know; in other words, to learn.

As I type this out, I realize that in some sense, writing this newsletter is a weekly exercise in “What am I going to be curious about this week?” That the time spent listening, synthesizing and writing about work is our form of quiet time. Our excuse, really, to explore, learn and be curious; discover new ideas, question and add to our perspectives; to become more convicted in what we believe about the complexity of work, and to trust our intuition as to where it’s headed. All of which is ultimately just a prerequisite for one thing: the audacity to “hit send”. The courage needed to transmit what we believe to others, and in some, small way -- to lead.


#Leadership #Listening #Intuition #Empowerment #WorksOnKidsToo🤣

The suggestion here is that when we give in to the temptation to solve problems for others, we may actually strip them of their power and agency. Whereas by listening and letting them guide themselves, we allow them to find their own way forward; to "hear" their own intuition. And in exchange for relinquishing our need for control, and efficiency (which are not default concessions for many leaders) we get to empower someone else -- and foster deeper trust and connection between ourselves.

Let’s end this week with three questions then:

  1. What are you going to be curious about this week, as an exercise in being able to hear our own intuition?
  2. Who will you hold space for; who will you give the gift of being able to hear their own intuition?
  3. How will you create the quiet that’s required for both?
Work moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
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