There’s a temptation to believe that to bring out the best in others we must do more. Organizations prod their employees to “step up,” “speak up,” “be bold,” and “act with courage.” Yet, the rhetoric changes few behaviors.

That’s because bringing the best out in others also requires the absence of common leadership actions.

Consider this scenario: What happens when that teammate (you know the one – a bit introverted, thoughtful) clears their throat, and above the banter of those who typically fill meeting airwaves with chatter, softly offers an idea. In that moment, on many teams, there’s a rush to:

  • judge the idea (hint: body language counts)
  • question what’s been shared
  • or, in toxic cultures, take notes for future counter-attacks.

On the surface, the first two responses seem harmless. (Hey, we need vigorous debate around here!) But look a bit deeper, and on many teams there’s something more profound occurring – and relative to the health of the team: Teammates learn to keep their mouth shut. (At least silence presents the mask of intelligence.)

So, what do we do in a scenario such as this?

Effective teammates suspend judgment…pause their need to act…and then lean forward and utter those three powerful words that bring out the best in others:

“Tell us more.”

Such a request is sophisticated: It signals to others that we believe there’s un-activated brilliance within them. It also informs them that we value and accept them just as they are.

Yes, we must be true to ourselves without compromise. But there is more: If we are to be a team that overcomes the barriers in front of us, then we must also accept others for who they are without compromise.

(Someone’s about to say something – will you ask for more?)

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