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Quiet Leadership: Six Steps to Transforming Performance at Work

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Improving the performance of your employees involves one of the hardest challenges in the known universe: changing the way they think. In constant demand as a coach, speaker, and consultant to companies around the world, David Rock has proven that the secret to leading people (and living and working with them) is found in the space between their ears. "If people are being paid to think," he writes, "isn't it time the business world found out what the thing doing the work, the brain, is all about? " Supported by the latest groundbreaking research, Quiet Leadership provides a brain-based approach that will help busy leaders, executives, and managers improve their own and their colleagues' performance. Rock offers a practical, six-step guide to making permanent workplace performance change by unleashing higher productivity, new levels of morale, and greater job satisfaction.

288 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2006

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About the author

David Rock

55 books144 followers
Dr. David Rock coined the term neuroleadership, and is the Co-founder and CEO of the NeuroLeadership Institute (NLI). The Institute is a 23-year-old cognitive science consultancy that has advised over 50% of the Fortune 100. With operations in 24 countries, the institute brings neuroscientists and leadership experts together to make organizations better for humans through science.

Dr. Rock has authored four successful books including Your Brain at Work, a business best-seller, and has written for and been quoted in hundreds of articles about leadership, organizational effectiveness, and the brain which can be found in Harvard Business Review, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Business Insider, CNBC, Forbes, Fortune, Inc., USA Today, BBC, The Boston Globe and more.

Dr. Rock is originally Australian, though based in the US since 2010. He holds a professional doctorate in the Neuroscience of Leadership from Middlesex University in the UK.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 155 reviews
Profile Image for Clare.
1,460 reviews306 followers
February 18, 2013
While the content of this book is very similar to (and just as good as) his later book Your Brain at Work, the organisation, explanation and presentation of it doesn't quite have the same clarity. This book would help workers and leaders who are interested in and fairly dedicated to improving their performance at work. Your Brain at Work, on the other hand, is a life-transforming read for anyone: a high school student just as much as a CEO or president. So by all means read this one if you're keen, but for his best effort on the topic head to Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long, you won't regret it.
Profile Image for Valia.
186 reviews16 followers
January 16, 2016
This book has it all:

• A healthy amount of coaching mumbo-jumbo (interspersed with pieces that actually make sense which makes it even more annoying)
• A lot of wishful thinking
• Pseudo-mathematical formulas, see Page 61
• Figures that do not clarify complex ideas or concepts (there are none) but are simply there because books of this sort cannot be without pictures, see Page xxii and further

So, if you are into that sort of "leadership" books, you won't be disappointed.
Profile Image for SJ Loria.
450 reviews77 followers
August 27, 2013
A better title for this book might be – Quiet Leadership: How to have conversations in the workplace regarding performance and goal setting. This is more of a how to have conversations guide than it is a manual on how to walk softly but carry a big stick style leadership. So, know that going into it. This is your basic acronym heavy, do things this way and try to apply this rather than just think hmm, that’s interesting, business book. So know that as well.

Overall, I think the book does a good job at outlining a concise, specific way to guide three distinct styles of conversations in a positive and productive manner. I think the difficulty this book addresses is this: how do you help people think through a framework and establish a goal for performance? All that is tricky, abstract and emotional, so how to make this possible, and, more ambitiously, how to make them take credit for the thinking. That’s where the Quiet part of the title gets in, simply put a leader will listen and guide a conversation more than they will talk during one.

There is an art to guiding a productive conversation, and a certain both emotional arch and logical direction that a conversation can take in order to achieve a positive result. Some people essentially feel the shape of these conversations, but laying them out systematically is a pretty good way to do this. Succinct – instead of launching into a huge metaphor, I am going to summarize how the author recommends this below (who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks):

1. Focus on their thinking – essentially, let them do the majority of the talking and thinking. While listening you are focused on how they are thinking, not the details of their thought, thus they are more self directed and motivated. Then, focus on a solution, not detail specific, but a solution or goal. Remember to stretch them, to push their thinking in terms of what they are going to be able to achieve.
2. Accentuate the positive – a good point in this book. People are their own worst critics, they beat themselves up enough mentally for their own mistakes, so instead focus on the positive and the good. Performance = potential – interference (which is any negative thoughts). Emphasize the positive and be specific while doing so.
3. Focus on process – identify the goal of a conversation, and don’t get stuck in one pattern. There are different kinds of conversations – stick to the first two to be a good leader. Vision, planning, detail, problem, drama.

Other good points include distancing yourself from a situation in order to understand it better. This is perhaps more important in today’s increasingly, let’s all just sit here together for hours collaboration style. Collaboration is fine, but sometimes we need to step back from a situation in order to understand the situation better.

Speak with intent. I need to focus on this part of the book. Speak more concisely. This means, be succinct, specific, and generous (meaning open yourself up, while keeping a decent balance of going overboard here). Interesting point is he talks about noting body language of the listeners while doing this. A head nod is a good thing and indicates you are being specific.

The book discusses three styles of conversation:

I. The arch of a difficult conversation.
Permission (ask a question to solicit a yes response before continuing into any tougher area). Placing (meaning setting an agenda, then summarizing points). Questioning (not getting stuck in the details or emphasizing the problem, but instead asking about their thinking, vision and planning). Clarifying (putting their thoughts into just a few words, emphasizing the essence of their message). Return to permission.
The point of these conversations is to guide the listener to an aha. Not force them to it, guide them to it. Once they reach that aha, a different kind of conversation develops.

II. Making an epiphany into a habit
Current Reality – where they are at, what are the implications, etc. Explore Alternatives – What are some other ways around this problem, some different means of going at it. Tap the Energy – use the momentum of the aha to create a plan forward. Make goals, etc. This gets into SMART goals.

III. Follow up conversations about goals
FEELING is the acronym o the day – Facts, Emotions, Encourage, Learning, Implications, New Goal. This is an area I feel comfortable with, an educational example might be something like: “Enrique you just read this book, you feeling proud about that and rightly so, I think you are going to be able to read that other book and gain a bunch from it as well, think about it, if you’re able to read these books then you are definitely able to rock that other class, maybe we should focus on math now and take this same approach.”

Metaphor - Giving advise is like herding an animal, except in the abstract, but a good shepherd will know which members of the flock need direct herding, which need just a whistle, when different people need different tips and how to wean one of one style onto another. Or, to sum it up, gradual release of responsibility.

People are now being paid to think. Yet the management models we’re applying to our work forces are still those of the previous era. 4
Many of our habits are driven by decisions we made in the past that are now literally a part of us. ..changing a habit, now that’s hard, but leaving it where it is and creating a whole new habit – that turns out to be far more achievable. 16
Time to stop second guessing what peoples’ brains need, and become masters of helping others think for themselves. The best way to do that is by defining solutions rather than problems, and helping people identify for themselves new habits they could develop to bring those solutions closer. Pivotal to all this is the art of enabling other people to have their own insights. 27
This doesn’t mean we don’t address problems – far from it; it means we address them by analyzing the way forward, instead of their causes. 46
Quiet leaders don’t just quietly putter around in the background trying not to upset anyone. They are comfortable making people uncomfortable – in fact, they’re keen to do so. They know that pushing others can be challenging; however – they have learned to support people throughout this journey. Above all they know that the right kind of stretch brings growth, and in growth there is aliveness, engagement, and passion, qualities that are necessary for achieving great performance in any role. 57
Our behaviors are driven by our emotions, which are driven by our thinking. So our thinking is at the core of our performance. Yet we all have a lot of thoughts going on that are not supporting the performance we want. If we can help other people quiet this inner voice a little, we should be able to make a big difference to their thinking and therefore the results they produce. 60
The best course of action could be to head home for the day; once our emotions are engage it takes several hours to settle down and be able to think straight again. Broaching a charged issue another time may be a better use of resources. 83
A hierarchy of questions
Vision Questions – how long have you thought about this? One a scale of one to ten how important is this? How clear are you about this issue? What are your priorities? Can you see any gaps in your thinking / plan? What are you noticing about your thinking?
Vision – what are you trying to accomplish? Why? How important is it to you?
Planning – what’s your final goal? How can I help you get there? Can we talk about this again in a week to see how we’ve progressed?
Detail – what have you done so far?
Problem – what’s the problem? Why haven’t you gotten this yet?
Drama – what will go wrong if you don’t get this or what’s the implications on the rest of your life due to the current problem.
Profile Image for Reid Mccormick.
375 reviews4 followers
March 9, 2018
I’ll be honest, I do not like to write bad reviews. I feel like a fraud writing a negative review thinking “Who am I to judge?” But this my turn to have an opinion, so I guess I’ll give it a go.

This book was simply not good. The main theme of the book is this: leaders need to teach others how to think. That’s a great theme and truly a great foundation to great leadership, however his “six steps” are convoluted and overbearing. In the book there is an image that attempts to demonstrate the “six steps.” In the image the leader is standing on a five-step platform (confused already?), three words emit from the leader, then in front of leader is a slightly ascending arrow with three stacking discs. There is even more on the image than I have described. It does not make a lot of sense, nor does the book.

Actually, I do not understand why the book is titled Quiet Leadership. I don’t feel like that was explained at all. Sure, to be a thinker you need to internalize a bit but that does not simply equate to quietness.

David Rock appears to have a lot of experience. I do not want to take that away from him, but this book was just not worth the read. This is a hard pass for me.
Profile Image for Ali Sattari.
119 reviews35 followers
December 20, 2016
It is well written, full with background science and relevant examples.

The general problem with such books is they are mostly best-case or cliché scenarios, where all relevant people are cooperative, company organizations well defined and established and most people internally motivated to get better. Well, that doesn't happen very often in real life, few people approach others (colleagues or managers) with their problems, few entertain an analytic approach to problem solving and even fewer try to systematically resolve their meta problems.

This book has some solid pieces of advice and some recipes to use such advice, but you have a long way to actually incorporating them into your daily life.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
260 reviews9 followers
January 10, 2018
1- think about thinking
2- listen for potential
3- speak with intent
4- dance toward insight
5- create new thinking
6- follow up
Profile Image for Jim.
237 reviews4 followers
February 19, 2015
This is a coaching book that begins by looking at some science surrounding the human brain and then uses insights from that and gives leaders a 6 step framework in coaching people through their decisions, difficulties and every day situations. Rock proposes that most people do not need to be told what to do but could use help in thinking through the things they face and, in doing so, the coach helps the person come to their own conclusions and insights which enable them to reform their work habits and more.

If your job requires you to lead people, there are definitely concepts in here that are worth your time and consideration.
Profile Image for Bjoern Rochel.
371 reviews66 followers
August 27, 2017
Lacks the clarity and structure of 'Your brain at work', but contains useful models for working in leadership and coaching roles, if you want to enhance the thinking skills of your directs / peers.
164 reviews
December 21, 2017
This book was strongly recommended to me by a colleague whose opinion I thought and think very highly of. He is a techie with broad knowledge and the best generalised problem solving skills I've ever seen. He's also much more than an uber-geek, with wide and varied interests. So I was expecting good things from this book. Maybe too good.

Because on first read it was actually very disappointing.

The book is badly written. It is repetitive and has a fetish for complex models with trendy acronyms that spell out superficially relevant words - CREATE and FEELING just give me flashbacks to my days of marking undergrad essays. There's an attempt to ground the book in academic research, but the conclusions of this research are generalised in a fashion so sweeping Andrew Gelman (http://www.andrewgelman.com) would pop an artery. Comparing the way the Grand Canyon was formed to the way we learn is metaphorically true (maybe?), but to blithely extend this metaphor and conclude that erosion is the same reason it is hard to learn new habits is a bridge too far.

But I take my friend's opinion seriously. So I decided to let the book simmer for a little while and then come back to it. A little while turned into months, and now years, but I've finally come back to it. In that intervening time I've taken on team leadership roles and seen the modus operandi of a half dozen other organisations, some more intimately, some less so. And so in that intervening time I've also changed.

What do I think of the book now?

Well, it's still not great. But it's not a total waste of time. Ostensibly and aspirationally a guide to leading others through change and performance improvement, Quiet Leadership is much more general - it's a guide to listening, talking and communicating.

In this role the book is worth reading, a balanced 2 stars. This summary is my attempt to distil out the good bits. If you want more, well - for that you should read the book or another.


There are many different kinds of conversations. Professionally, the following four are pretty comprehensive:

- Providing leadership (down, up and sideways - as a leader, to a leader, and to a colleague)
- Making collective decisions (i.e. getting to the best consensus possible)
- Providing expertise
- Receiving expertise

Ostensibly, Quiet Leadership is only about the first, but it actually provides a general framework for conversation that is also useful for the second and third.

In each of these conversation types, the starting point is that we need to help the counterparty think as clearly as possible. Doing this has a number of advantages - they will have greatest investment in the conversation and its outcomes, the conversation will best use their expertise as well as ours, the immediate quality of any decision will be better and they will also feel heard, be more motivated and better enabled to perform in future situations. Us and them, we, will be fully and mutually invested in the jointly agreed outcome.

Of course, making sure that I help the other party think as clearly as possible doesn't mean I don't contribute my expertise, needs and perspective to the conversation. But I am strongly biased to do this anyway, we all are, so would do so anyway. Deliberately putting the emphasis on their thinking first helps ensure it is fully incorporated regardless.

As a framework, the Quiet Leadership model is made up of three parts: listening, speaking and an ornate process to help ensure the best possible conversational flow. The book also has a few lists of seeds and starting points to various types of conversation which help ensure all angles of an issue are drawn out. I'll include some of these as a fourth part at the end.


How to listen

It's all too easy when listening to forget that we are hearing their words through our own filters. This can bias us.

At the most simple level, we can listen but not hear them because we are too focused on achieving some goal we have, like persuading them to buy our widgets. We can also listen but not hear because one of our filters is what we expect of them.

If Adam is having problems with a flat mate and he (Adam) is someone who has always been a bit disorganised in the past then I'm likely to assume that this has some bearing on the problematic flat mate. Likewise, if I've just been through a difficult family situation this might also have some bearing. I see the world through darker glasses when I'm tired. Obviously, these are all true. The insight is that if I don't acknowledge them deliberately to myself then I risk ignoring their influence in the conversation I am trying to have.

More broadly, the simple and simplistic message is that if I assume Adam is capable of handling the situation on his own then I might be right, and if I assume that he isn't then I might also be right, because both of these assumptions have a strong bearing on how I engage in discussion with him.

Thus, David Rock has a couple of suggestions for better listening that I should follow:

- First, assume the counterparty has the capability required of them
- Next, take a deliberate step back and generate some self-awareness about my own agenda, my filters and my emotional state


How to speak

In the context of Quiet Leadership, the goal of speaking is to improve others' thinking. To put it bluntly, this just means speaking clearly, but David Rock draws out two factors that contribute significantly: succinctness and specificity.

By being succinct, I will be clear to myself and others what my message is. This is table stakes. I will also make the smallest possible demand of the listener's attention and energy.

By being specific, I give the listener the detail they need to understand my message. "That was great" is succinct, but specific detail is needed for the other person to do anything with it.

Being succinct and specific also requires more effort from me as a speaker. This leads to David's third point about speaking, which is that we must be generous to the listener. As well as being succinct and specific, I should choose my words deliberately, not be afraid to pause and listen carefully to others.

One specific (ha) suggestion is to think about what I'm trying to explain, picture it visually in my own mind and then describe that picture. "A stitch in time saves nine" and so forth. Doing this is a generous way of being succinct because it means that my listener doesn't have to build their own visual model, saving them time and energy. It also helps ensure clear communication and might be a first step to specificity, although a description of a visual model is probably only a first step.

The challenges associated with communicating clearly are even more important when it is written, not spoken. This is a good reason to convey negative or mixed feedback only in person, or at least by phone, and likewise for any complex explanation, discussion or negotiation.


Conversational flow

Conversation is much more than listening and speaking - the higher level process of the conversation is its flow, and shaping this also helps ensure the conversation is successful.

Firstly, being clear about the Goal of the conversation is critical. A conversation might be about a problem, a strategic vision, a detailed plan or something else, but having personal clarity about the goal (whatever it is) will help ensure the conversation is efficient and effective.

Placement is making sure every one in the conversation is clear about the immediate focus and objective, how this relates to the wider conversational goal and also their role within this part of the conversation. By deliberately stopping and checking that everyone is "on the same wavelength" the conversation can move forward efficiently and the participants won't realise later that they collectively forgot an important topic.

For example, if someone is brainstorming how to get faster results on a new project they're leading, they might have a long list of questions that they want to discuss: who the right team members are, how they (the project leader) should prioritise it versus other tasks, how the project relates to others and what the specific project objectives should be. There might also be others that need to be answered. Placement is being clear about the current focus.

Opportunities for placement are also ideal opportunities to recap what has been discussed and agreed, paraphrasing as necessary. This helps ensure everyone is agreed on what is agreed and allows any differences to be clearly scoped and constrained, all with the goal of effective, efficient conversation and consensus.

Closely related to Placement is Permission. Permission is explicitly checking with the other party that now is the right time to have the conversation I intend. If the conversation is long or the Placement changes it is important to re-check this as well. Failing to do this can lead to conversations wandering in circles as old issues get revisited time and time again.

For example, if the goal of the conversation was to figure out how to enter a new market, but the discussion so far has been focused on why this market was selected, then explicitly shifting gears ("so far we've mostly been talking about the overall marketing strategy, is it OK to drill in on the specifics for Tanzania now?") renews the counterparty's engagement, explicitly signposts the change in topic and also checks that it is OK to move on.


A conversational grab bag

Quiet Leadership is full of lists and models. To be honest, most of them just make the book longer and woollier. But some of them are also very useful. This section is a short selection of the useful ones. I've tried to combine similar lists into one and filter out duplicate content but YMMV. If you want more you should read the book.

Acknowledging others contributions, to the conversation and more widely, is critical. In part, this is because we usually live up to the standards we set ourselves or which others set for us ("how to listen", above), but also because it's only fair. Here are a number of reasons to acknowledge someone:

With appreciation - e.g. for completing a work package on time
With validation - e.g. for giving a task a lot of thought and effort
With recognition - of their skills and expertise
With confirmation - that they are the right person for a project or task
With gratitude - thanking them for the effort and time they have invested

In the same vein, people can be encouraged to self-acknowledge in response to questions they are asked:

- What did you do well, and what did you discover about yourself as a result?
- What were the highlights of this project and what did you learn?
- What went well and would you like to talk about how to do more of this?
- What did you do well and what impact do you think this has had on everyone else?

Analogously, there are also many ways of drawing out the counterparty's expertise, goals or ideas. As examples, here are some questions that can be used for this:

- What are some possible paths we could take from here?
- Do you want to explore a few different ideas for how to move this forward?
- How could I best help you from here?
- Can you see some different angles we could look at this from?
- What are the broader implications of being able to do this now?
- What impact has this learning had on you?
- Where else might this new capability be useful?


So that's Quiet Leadership. Since this entire post is one long summary I don't really have any concluding remarks to make!
Profile Image for Sergey Shishkin.
157 reviews41 followers
July 17, 2019
I very much like the idea of focusing on the other person's thinking instead of offering my own solutions (which I currently can't resist doing). Continuous asking for permission and placement dialogs are very useful too.
Profile Image for Moryma.
85 reviews1 follower
April 8, 2021
There are a lot of acronyms and multi step processes accompanied by drawings that were too small to read on a Kindle. That said, I’ve found the practices of permission and placement really useful in setting the scene for conversations.
Profile Image for Briana Kelly.
218 reviews12 followers
June 23, 2020
Likes: Fascinating approach to how we can help people think better by utilizing neurological techniques. I read this as part of a coaching course I am in the process of completing. The author David Rock and all his work is brilliant (See: Your Brain At Work).
Dislikes: This book is very content heavy (took me almost 3 weeks to read by picking up and letting it down again)
Recommend For: Managers, parents, coaches, mentors, Learning and Development professionals
Profile Image for Sandy.
9 reviews
August 27, 2008
David Rock cites new discoveries of the brain and the way we think as his foundation for Quiet Leadership. The main thrust of his Six Steps is that leaders should not tell people what to do, in fact they shouldn't even concern themselves with the details of what their people do, but rather, with the way their folks think. The way to improve behavior is by improving the way people think. The Six Steps go through this in detail, and I got the most value out of the first three steps which pertain to thinking, listening and speaking.

I must say that some of Rock's advice seems over-simplified. You, as a leader, should ask questions like: "what do you think about the amount of thinking you've put into this problem?" Personally, I'd question the intelligence and motive of someone who addressed me that way; it's just not how we talk to each other. Yet, within the leader/direct-report relationship, once rapport is built, there are probably more sincere ways to apply Rock's Six Steps.

The reason I give this book four stars is not so much that I agree with all of Rock's suggestions verbatim. It's because he gave me enough insight on the brain and enough structured information that I will be able to make some real difference using this knowledge, even if I modify it. In fact, this book has inspired me to rethink the way I interact with people and to consider trying new things - more so than any other professional development book I have read recently.
Profile Image for Erika RS.
717 reviews195 followers
March 14, 2020
I am always reluctant to give books 5/5 because I worry that someday I will come across the most excellent book ever and not have a higher score to give it. If that day comes, I'll deal with it. Until then, this book deserves a 5/5 for its wealth of information and potential for a positive impact on my life.

Quiet Leadership is a book about communication. The core idea is that the best leaders are those who help others to think for themselves. This would amount to nothing more than common sense advice if it weren't for the way Rock backs this up with a process for helping get others to think for themselves. Although the book claims to have 6 steps to help improve your communication skills, each step is actually broken down into multiple parts, so it is probably more like one to two dozen small ideas which group into broader skills.

It is that level of detail which makes this book work so well for me. I will need to reread parts of this book several times before they start to get dry, and I am going to have to invest real time and effort into effectively using the techniques Rock presents. This isn't another magic bullet communication book.

I'm not going to bother with an overview of the content. The table of contents (which you can see on Amazon) provides as good an overview as I would give here, and the details are too numerous to make sense without reading the book. Instead, if you are interested in effective communication techniques, read it!
Profile Image for Adele.
163 reviews
March 7, 2019
While I read this, I frequently thought of my team at work, my manager, past managers, and companies and employees in general. I could relate to many of the issues discussed and in my professional life I personally witness numerous instances of miscommunication, lack of appreciation, and apathy. Will I remember any of the techniques and apply them to my daily life? Probably not. The author frequently refers to his workshops and I think that would be the best format for understanding and absorbing his ideas. The conversations in the book were unrealistic (despite what the author says). No one speaks like that and, even with training, no one would speak like that. If I mentioned a problem to someone and their response was "How much time have you spent thinking about this issue?", that would be the end of our conversation.
Profile Image for Chelsea.
32 reviews1 follower
June 30, 2014
Good book for anyone in a role working with people, whether direct reports, peers, friends, business partners or family members. The book is geared towards altering your thinking and engagement techniques to be less about self and more about others. There are great processes laid out in the book for conversations and excellent lists of questions and approaches to use. I've been applying the Dance of Insight technique (permission, placement, questioning and clarifying) to those I work with and it's been going positively. Would recommend to those looking to grow themselves and others especially in conversation, thinking and performance improvement.
39 reviews2 followers
July 11, 2008
This book was made for people like me. There are times when I feel that I know how to get someone to do better, but I wasn't comfortable with barking at them. They didn't need a push, they needed a pointer.

It is filled with enough common sense to be a breezy read, yet has enough pertinent examples and points to lock in ideas. I passed over the whizbang of neuroscience, as it seemed geared for illuminating commoner folk. The mechanics of changing people's thoughts was more relevant to my interests.
Profile Image for Chris Stratton.
100 reviews1 follower
November 1, 2013
I think some of the dialog was wishful thinking. If I were to use dialog like that with my employees they would either laugh directly into my face or talk about how full of bull I was behind my back. I believe a lot of these kind of books find a ecosystem among like kinds of books and coaches.
That being said ... I think there is a lot of value in asking questions that stimulate another persons thinking. Letting someone find the answer on their own versus throwing out a bunch of my ideas of what is wrong and my idea of the solution.
Profile Image for Kristen.
1,127 reviews64 followers
July 7, 2015
I like a lot of the ideas in here, but a lot of them seem like they'd be hard to put into practice in a way that didn't feel ridiculous. And they definitely apply to managing knowledge workers, and being a high level manager, rather than to the concept of managing up. So maybe not the best read for me right now at the place I am in my career, but one to keep on the back burner and come back to later, possibly.
Profile Image for Kara.
85 reviews
July 10, 2014
This book would be better as a workbook. The concepts are kind of convoluted, although the author would like you to see them as a clear path to transformation. There are also "assignments" at the end of each chapter that would take time to do, so you can't really read through it very quickly.
Profile Image for William Meller.
69 reviews1 follower
March 8, 2023
Quiet Leadership by David Rock is a must-read for anyone looking to become a more effective leader. The book draws on decades of research on the neuroscience of leadership, offering practical strategies and tips to guide successful leadership in any environment.

David Rock has proven, supported by neuroscience, that the secret to leading people (and living and working with them) is found in the space between their ears, "If people are being paid to think," he writes, "isn't it time the business world found out the thing doing the work, the brain, is all about?"

Managers are default programmed to solve problems. That’s what they are paid to do (or at least someone told them that). And that is how they see themselves, at a subconscious level. So, when an employee comes up with a problem, the manager starts the solution model, giving ideas and solutions for this problem. The employee walks out with the manager’s solution and the manager feels great.

Neuroscience says that everyone’s brain is wired differently and that we live by the various maps we hard-wire in our heads. One of the approaches for quiet leadership is about having better conversations that will improve the way people think, and create new wiring and new maps, but not directly doing or saying that.

The book evolves through a practical, six-step guide to making permanent workplace performance changes by unleashing higher productivity, new levels of morale, and greater job satisfaction.

One of the things I liked about this book is that David Rock recommends several question templates that a leader should ask to help their teams think better about how to solve problems, without the leader giving the solution directly to people.

Six Steps To Transforming Performance At Work

STEP 1: Think About Thinking

The first step is to think about thinking and to let people do all the thinking, keep them focused on solutions, stretch their thinking, accentuate the positive, and follow a good process. You purposely avoid the actual problem, listening instead to their assumptions and how they are framing the problem. Direct the conversation away from the fear and toward potential solutions.

STEP 2: Listen for Potential

The second step is to listen for potential and not get too close, it is about listening as if the individual has all the tools and elements to solve his or her problem.

STEP 3: Speak with Intent

The third step is to speak with intent and to be succinct, specific, and generous. When you do offer insight, comments, or suggestions, deliver them in short bites, with specific points, and in terms that they will understand.

STEP 4: Dance Toward Insight

Step four is about the conversation: we dance toward insight by getting permission for harder conversations, placing people, so they know where we’re coming from, using thinking questions so that others do the thinking, and then clarifying their responses. The goal is to take the individual from stuck thinking around a concern to new insights and concrete action.

STEP 5: Create New Thinking

Once we know how to dance this way, in step five we create new thinking. We get people to become aware of their mental dilemmas and reflect more deeply on them by asking questions about their current reality. Once they have had an insight, we explore alternatives for how to move their insight into action, then we tap into the energy given off by the new connections being made.

STEP 6: Follow Up

Finally, we know that following up can make a big difference in the emergence of new wiring, so we focus on the facts and people’s feelings. We encourage, listen for learning, look for implications, and then look for the next goal to focus on.

In conclusion, Quiet Leadership by David Rock is an invaluable resource for any leader looking to become more effective and successful.

Not only does Rock provide an insightful overview of the neuroscience of leadership, but he also offers practical strategies and tools to help leaders lead with integrity and focus.

With its engaging narrative and actionable advice, the book will undoubtedly leave readers inspired and equipped to be great leaders.

This book was originally shared in my website: https://www.williammeller.com/2022/01...
263 reviews
January 6, 2020
I read this book as part of a book club for work, and that must have been one of the best ways to process this material. Like most leadership/self help books, this one is easy to speed through, set aside and walk away from, unless you actively do something with the content.

So, what can you do with this? Rock spends a decent amount of time talking about the workings of the brain, justifying his (not yet presented) theories with decades of research, his own dazzling experience, yada yada. This section is not worse than other books in the same genre, though, and as long as you skim over the more "wannabe scientific" parts (like when he draws a chart, sets an arbitrary scale of 0 to 10, places an arbitrary marker halfway to denote some kind of change, and says, "hey, 5 points is actually quite a good improvement!" *facepalm*) it sets a pretty good scene for what the book wants to accomplish.

As for the core content, I'd say it's presented in a quite clear manner, with a good mixture of explanations and (make-believe) sample conversations to drive home the message in each section. As with all behavioural changes, you need to go away and do stuff to actually learn anything, but the text leaves you with pretty good guidelines on what to actually do, and I find that the ideas seem to work pretty well at least for getting you counterpart more engaged in conversations and problem solving. Overall I think this has been an enjoyable read, and I definitely believe integrating this into my behaviour will make me a better leader.

I'd say, though, that Rock should try to go a bit more chill on the emphasized models and funky abbreviations. There must be at least 10 of them in this book and it makes tying the whole together a bit difficult, plus towards the end I find I'm pretty fed up with having to internalize yet another circuit/table/process chart or whatever. But there are some helpful summarizing chapters towards the end that help with seeing how this all fits together.

Finally, a big gold star to Rock for not spending half the book promoting his own services/seminars/master classes. Some of these books are like paying for an advertisement leaflet. This one is not.
Profile Image for Angus Mcfarlane.
664 reviews11 followers
September 22, 2018
One of the recommendations from a work leadership course, I wanted to take this slowly to absorb and 'practise' the content as I went. Probably I went too slow and lost continuity with it, and it didn't become compelling as a read as a result, but I do feel this has excellent content and captures well how I would like to lead and be led. To make this work I will need to revise it, but the points that have stuck with me are: 1. Staying solution focused; 2. Coaching isn't for every situation; 3. Ask permission (I don't do this enough); 4. Ask lots of thinking questions to help others have their 'aha' moment.
I have seen/heard objections to this approach. One colleague thinks coaching takes too much time because in part people aren't used to being coached and just want to be told. In response, if I am going to be leading others in a senior role for the rest of my career, there's time enough. I also feel tension with my need to pass on technical expertise to younger colleagues (via teaching) and ensuring they are becoming self learners and self motivated (via coaching). This will take some wisdom to decide on, because there is a role for both, at least at the moment, but I feel it will be the latter that has to prevail if a choice is required, since the world is too complex for me to try and advise others on how to do what they need to do - I get to work with bright, capable people, so I am confident that coaching will help them find better solutions than I would find for them.
Lots to learn here, and I hope I can!
522 reviews
July 3, 2017
I started reading this book in October 2015. I lost it, found it, and have been plodding through it ever since. Plodding, not because it is a bad book (I really liked it) but because it is about thinking, and that is a very hard thing to do!

David Rock has written a book about the latest research on the brain and how it works. He has taken that research and applied it to coaching in the business field. Essentially he has created a format for talking with employees, direct reports, and any one you are leading. This format gives you a structure for teaching your people how to work out problems they are facing without you giving all the answers.

I am not a business coach, I have no direct reports or employees, but because I am old I have people seeking advise from me. They may be my children, members of groups I belong to, or friends who see some wisdom in me. I have seen some of these methods used on me by my mentor and it has caused me to think things out for myself which, according to the book, creates new neural pathways to help you/me be more creative in future situations where we might have to think.

This is one of the most interesting books I have read in the business coaching field and I hope you will study it yourself. Thinking is hard, but I think you can do it with this creative approach!
Profile Image for Tiffany Neal.
227 reviews31 followers
January 21, 2019
I found this book incredibly fascinating.

Don’t let the title of the book shy you away from reading it. A great deal of brain science is involved in this work, discussing the neural pathways in our brains related to habits and the most powerful ways to create new pathways/habits, especially in regards to our ability to think.

Rock discusses the importance of solution focused conversations rather than getting lost in the problem or details of a situation.

As someone who will always be an instructional coach at heart, I found the ideas to help transform thinking to be extremely powerful, particularly the thinking questions, how to avoid giving advice, and how to give powerful feedback. I also enjoyed the exercises throughout the book—it provided me with opportunities to put the skills into practice and reflect over what it felt like, and honestly, the slowing down and thinking about how I respond to people, and reflecting over those conversations has been extremely beneficial and powerful, even.

Toward the end of the book, there was a chapter on using the 6 steps with teenagers, which if I need this in any area of my life, it’s certainly as a parent with 3 girls, ages 10, 13, and 15, so thank you David Rock for including that important chapter.
Profile Image for Jody.
206 reviews
September 11, 2017
This was one of the recommended readings from "Your Brain At Work" for further information on how to apply the concepts. While written by the same author, it is interesting to me that he wrote this one first. This one is WAY more practical in the context of giving the reader the information necessary to execute on some of the concepts and more to the point effectively get your people to think for themselves and grow to be the most effective employees/people they can be. Some of the processes, though, are complicated in the many-steps sense. I think it would be a great exercise for me to create a little cheat sheet so I can hand it over to my boss and say "Do this to me." Although, in the same breath, I'm curious if it would work as well if I know what is being done. I took extensive notes, so I hope to solidify the concepts or maybe select some specific action items to build some of these practices into habits.
Profile Image for Victoria Ivanova.
37 reviews41 followers
August 23, 2019
"Quiet leaders don’t just quietly putter around in the background trying not to upset anyone. They are comfortable making people uncomfortable – in fact, they’re keen to do so. They know that pushing others can be challenging; however – they have learned to support people throughout this journey.
Many of our habits are driven by decisions we made in the past that are now literally a part of us. Changing a habit, now that’s hard, but leaving it where it is and creating a whole new habit – that turns out to be far more achievable.
Our behaviors are driven by our emotions, which are driven by our thinking. So our thinking is at the core of our performance. Yet we all have a lot of thoughts going on that are not supporting the performance we want. If we can help other people quiet this inner voice a little, we should be able to make a big difference to their thinking and therefore the results they produce."
Profile Image for Jes.
671 reviews
February 28, 2019
Get you a glass of water because this is a somewhat dry read. But it's very good at examining and disseminating the practices of the Six Steps in several ways and opportunities. The information was good, backed up with real studies and reflects our current knowledge of how the brain works. I did almost stop reading it when Rock mentioned the way some people take medicines for anxiety and/or depression instead of doing the work that actually helps the brain out, but that comment was quickly followed by the defense that this did not include ALL people with mental illnesses. Personally, I would have scrapped that. It was exclusive and didn't serve much of a purpose beyond, See here! This is how lazy we actually are!

But I'd recommend this book to new managers, prospective managers, and employees who want to better their work culture.
349 reviews2 followers
May 15, 2019
If there were more stars to give, I'd give them all to the author of this book.

It is a simply brilliant, outstanding book which details the necessary skills for the leadership of the current times. To help your employees develop their thinking, the author shows the neuroscience of how our brain reacts to the perception of feedback and what we can do to actually put it into practice. With examples which document possible dialogue in situations of good performance, below par performance and poor performance, Mr. Rock does this world a tremendous service by going in depth on all these aspects. The models he provides, particularly the concepts of permission, placement and questionning simply what is a daunting task, i.e. managing and leading people.

An outstanding book. Recommended for all leaders, managers and HR people.
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