Ask How You Feel, Not Fail

Ask How You Feel, Not Fail

This week’s post is from former nuclear submarine Captain, author, and speaker, David Marquet.  Marquet imagines a work place where everyone engages and contributes their full intellectual capacity, a place where people are healthier and happier because they have more control over their work—a place where everyone is a leader.  See more of his resources at davidmarquet.com.

Good leadership is more like a sports camp than a history course. Our leadership abilities grow when we practice new skills. Like physical training, we need to practice the principles we learn.

For example, we encourage you to develop leaders, not followers. One way we suggest you do this is to avoid the temptation to solve problems and tell people what to do. Instead, ask them what they think. Language choice can also being a powerful agent for change. Carol from ProService Hawaii shared this story with us.

“We rolled out something where I asked them to come look at everything we had to accomplish and I wanted to get their feedback on whether or not we could be successful.” Carol’s team was more than willing to provide feedback, but she was using language that focused solely on the negative. “I said OK, what do you think we are going to fail at with this and nobody wanted to answer the question,” she shared. “So I rephrased it and said OK, who feels uneasy about this and who’s a little worried about this?”

Carol’s new language choice opened the floodgates for feedback. Her team was willing to share where they had concerns, and it helped her and her team identify obstacles and overcome challenges. “I got responses like, ‘I don’t think we can do both of those things on the same day,’ so we started to adjust and I got feedback from them and it was a really good lesson for me because I learned that language matters.”

As we pursue excellence in leadership we need to approach it as something we practice – something we do, not just an exercise in gathering knowledge. When we train physically, we observe changes. As a jogger trains for a 5k run, each workout produces positive effects. Longer runs build stamina, speed work builds strength, and weight work builds upper body strength. Leadership is very similar.

Our brains are like muscles and need training. Like physical training, we need to practice leadership principles to learn them. Leadership always involves other people. Keeping a body of knowledge in our own heads without practicing the behaviors isn’t leadership. Remember, like physical training, we need to practice the principles we learn, just like Carol showed when she changed the language she used with her team.


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