Q: One of the mechanisms you implemented was ‘thinking out loud’. Can teams think out loud in a distributed digital world?
I now run a consultancy where we advise organisations on how to adopt a leader-leader model. We use Slack, so every morning everyone writes in Slack their daily intentions: Here’s what I’m working on today, here’s what I’m worried about, here’s what I’m thinking about, here’s what I need help with, etc. When we started people would tend to just write out their to-do list for the day, which wasn’t what I was after.
So, to break that we would practice using empowered sentence starters like “I intend to… I plan on… I will… and We will” and discourage disempowered phrases like “Request permission to… I would like to… What should I do about… Do you think we should… Could we…”
I’m an introvert, so all day long I have stuff in my head and it would be better if I just vocalised it because then everyone would know, “oh so that’s why you’re worried about this.”
For example, when my daughter was learning to drive, she’d be driving down the road and there’d be people playing and I said, “Emily do you see them?” and she was like “Yeah Dad!” kind of annoyed at me. And I’d say: “Do you see the stop sign? Do you see the car coming? Do you see the guy backing out of his driveway?” And she got more frustrated, but I didn’t know if she could see them because she was driving in silence. So, for both our peace of mind I got her to vocalise what she was seeing as she went: “I see the family, I see the car, I see the stop sign…” And you don’t have to keep that behaviour going once you demonstrate competence. But it was her saying what she was seeing that allowed me to be quiet, which allowed her to retain control.
Corporately most people’s instinct is to create opacity in their job, because if they’re transparent about what they’re doing then it creates the opportunity for their boss to interfere, because they now have the information that would allow them to interfere.
But in a healthy, leader-leader organisation people aren’t afraid to be transparent because bosses trust them and won’t interfere. It’s recognised that the employee isn’t sharing because they need help; they are just letting their boss know that they are aware of what’s going on.