Blog

What are the silent ones saying?

I had the pleasure of engaging with Dr Jack Cochran, MD, on LinkedIn recently. For those of you who do not know Jack, it is vital that you get to know him and read his seminal leadership text for physicians, ‘Healer, Leader, Partner.’

Dr Cochran and I exchanged our thoughts on what it means to truly listen, and connected over a question Dr Cochran asks in his book,

“What are the silent ones observing, thinking and concluding? Are they listening silently and / or why aren’t they engaging.”

Jack Cochran, MD, ‘Healer, Leader, Partner’

I often thought about this from the lens of engaging people within meetings, and asked Dr Cochran the question, “Do you call on the quiet ones by name during a meeting and encourage them to speak? Or meet them one to one separately and gauge their thoughts? A bit of both? Which is more effective, and perhaps most importantly which is more respectful?”

Dr Cochran’s response is very important and worth sharing and reflecting upon.

“Both of these techniques are very useful and there is some nuance in how to do this most effectively. Certainly “checking in” with them in the big group is useful as it brings their view out and demonstrates that you want input from everyone and not just those that are freely speaking up.

Everyone has their own threshold and comfort for public discourse and especially disagreement. But following up in private is important to calibrate how you think the feedback seems AND ensures you are testing the water broadly. Both are respectful and important.

EXCELLENT QUESTION !! This kind of deeper questioning is how we really learn together !! Thanks !”

I would encourage you to read the full discourse on LinkedIn by clicking here.

I write this post as there is another golden nugget from Dr Cochran’s book, ‘The Doctor Crisis: How Physicians Can, and Must, Lead the Way to Better’ that I would like to share with you, as well as commit to my own memory. Dr Cochran speaks about the issue of dissent versus cynicism and offers that dissent is always more productive. Here it is:

“During the Listening Tour, I learned a critical lesson: the difference between cynicism and dissent. Cynics are characterised by a sense of hopelessness and futility and do not present alternative solutions along with their cynicism. A dissenter, however, wanted to work to make the organisation more effective. Thus, I learned a valuable lesson: dissent has value, while cynicism has none…

Too often I had seen people pretend to listen, but their version of listening was little more than a break between pronouncements. They appeared to listen while forming the next thought that they would articulate…

Valuing dissent is saying, I don’t agree with you, but I am working with you. With my data and yours, we’ll meet and find a solution.

Jack Cochran, MD, ‘The Doctor Crisis: How Physicians Can, and Must, Lead the Way to Better’

Does this narrative sound familiar to you? What are you doing to listen to others, and help give the silent ones a voice? I’d love to hear from you. Share your thoughts by commenting below.