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Sensei Book review.

‘Quiet Leadership – Six Steps to Transforming Performance at Work’ by David Rock; Published 2007 – ISBN 9780060835910


David is an international performance coach and CEO who has, through his research and coaching practice, studied the impact of coaching on improving performance and the links between coaching and neuroscience. The book aims to provide a “brain-based” approach to assist leaders, executives and managers in improving their own and their colleague’s performance, morale and job satisfaction. I was drawn to it because it set out to Summarise the latest developments in fields as diverse as evolutionary psychology, systems theory, genetics, linguistics and neurophysiology and then ask the question …….“What does this mean for making permanent workplace performance change ”

Quiet Leadership

Quiet Leadership is not set out as an academic theory of leadership in this book, but rather a guide to improving the quality of the conversations that leaders have with their people, based on researchinto the functioning of the brain. Through his “Six Steps” model he attempts to process map best practice in performance coaching.

The Six Steps 

In the body of the book, David sets out his Six Step model. In the model the first step is aimed at helping the reader to learn to “Think About Thinking” or focus on helping people to improve not what they are thinking about but the way they think. The key element here is to give the person space to do their own  thinking rather than doing it for them. He then addresses the topic of “Listening for Potential” or how a leader can encourage and support others to achieve their thinking potential through the non-verbal way in which they listen. Here the keys are not getting lost in the detail and avoiding being misled by your own filters and agenda. Step three introduces an approach to conducting conversation he calls, “Speak with Intent” which explores how to develop the skill of asking the right questions. In “Dance Toward Insight” he describes a process map around how leaders help others to develop insights and outlines an approach to reading facial expressions in a conversation. Step five aims to “Create New Thinking” and continues to develop his process map, describing the phases that people go through when real breakthroughs in thinking occur.

The final step is called “Follow-up”, which addresses the issue of ensuring that any changes in the person are sustained. In summary this book is helpful for anyone who is involved in leading organisations in highly pressured, rapidly changing environments. I did find that the information on neuroscience, neurophysiology etc., became a bit of a distraction at times, presenting self evident ideas in an overcomplicated “scientific” fashion. This runs the risk of detracting from some of David’s very helpful and profound messages. However, on the whole, the book provides many helpful insights and a clear process in the area of performance coaching. In particular his  emphasis on leaders needing to focus on asking their people the right questions, rather than giving them good instructions, allowing people to work things out for themselves and that this process of gaining their own insights becomes an “energising mechanism” in their organisations or businesses.

Ashley Forbes January 2012