In this episode, I share practical and proven tips to improve communication and performance at work and in life. I remember when I first enrolled in coaching School at NYU. Each of us was asked to share why we were going to be a great coach. And I clearly remember one of my classmates feeling confident as he said I’m great at giving advice and then quickly became embarrassed when the facilitator responded. Coaches don’t give advice. I’ll never forget the shock we all experienced in that room because most of us in that room was the person that friends and family would come to when they needed advice. But there’s a powerful reason why giving advice doesn’t work.
Do you like being told what to do? Most people don’t. In many cases when people tell us what to do we’re not inspired to take action. So, how do we motivate others? How do we get people motivated to take inspired action?
The short answer is simple through asking questions and helping people think through things on their own. Scientists have discovered that our brain is a connection making machine and when we’re able to think through things ourselves and we make a new insight there is a certain amount of energy that gets released when the brain connects a new neural pathway which provides the motivation to take action. Now, let me give you a practical example of this. Let’s say someone does something “wrong” at work that you’ve asked them to do. Instead of telling them what they did wrong ask them, “What do you think is wrong here?” or “What do you think could be improved?” What information do you need to make it better?” Ask questions to help people think through things on their own.
Another way to help people think through things themselves is to invite them to repeat what you communicated in their own words. If you give someone else instructions to go to do a task and someone responds with “Ok I got it.” Ask them, “What did you get? Can you repeat it to me in your own words?” This will help both you and the person understand. If you’re on the same page and if they accurately understood what you committee communicated and it can save you a lot of time and energy.
Most people are so in their heads and it’s very common for people to interpret information based on what they think you said and not what you actually said. I use this in my coaching as well. I invite people to explain a concept in their own words because I know it’s helping them think and make new connections.
Let me share some practical neuroscience with you about how and why this works. This is taken from the book Quiet Leadership: Six Steps to Transforming Performance at Work by David Rock.
1.) To take any kind of committed action, people need to think through things for themselves;
2.) People experience a degree of inertia around thinking for themselves due to the energy required;
3.) The act of having an aha moment gives off the kind of energy needed for people to become motivated and willing to take action.
Knowing this is such a helpful communication tool based on how our brain works and I use this knowledge all the time I use it in my coaching. I use it in my life even when it comes in handy when I’m ordering something on the phone. Our job as leaders is to help people make their own connections instead of thinking for them. And here’s the main takeaway if you help people become better thinkers they will become better performers.