Six seconds of silence can make you a better boss

Six seconds of silence can make you a better boss

31 March 2017


“If you want to be better boss, ask your team for feedback,” echoes the mantra of most leadership experts. But which worker wants to sit face-to-face with their boss and risk being fired or demoted for telling them what they’re doing wrong?

Chances are, when you ask your employees for constructive feedback, they say: “Everything’s fine. Thanks for asking.”

Cue Kim Scott, a former Google and Apple exec now CEO coach who spends her time training “kickass bosses” while helping them keep their “humanity.”

According to Ms Scott, the next time one of your employees gives the standard “Everything’s fine” response, silently count to six before saying anything else.

That’s six… long… extremely awkward… seconds.

The goal, it seems, is to get your employees to say what’s really on their mind.

“Almost nobody can endure that much silence,” Ms Scott told Business Insider. “They will tell you something.”

“Maybe they will mention that you’re not so great at meeting deadlines, or that you consistently pay more attention to one person on the team. Whatever they say, don’t dismiss it.”

But how can you get someone as inscrutable as a Tibetan monk to open up?

She suggests that you occasionally ask them: “Is there anything I could do or stop doing that would make it easier to work with me?”

“The most important thing [then] is to shut up and listen to the answer.”

But what if a worker strikes a nerve, and you feel your blood rising? It may be natural to get defensive, but Ms Scott urges bosses to try to remain calm.

If you really disagree with what they said, she says, focus on the “five percent nugget” of criticism that you agree with. A few days later, you might respectfully follow up by explaining what makes sense to you and why you disagree with the rest.

Of course, if you agree with what they’ve told you, go ahead and fix the problem.

A parting shot from the kickass coach: “Don’t dish it out before you can take it.”