Too often we believe that we know it all. This is compounded by easy access to the internet, social media sites, on-line libraries, and other material resources. We fail to realize that our effectiveness as leaders relies upon our ability to converse, listen and learn from other human beings! When we allow our egos to get in the way, we limit issue resolutions, fail to recognize our current thinking has created issues, or we assume we’ll get to the answer ourselves if we simply think longer. A mental monologue does not provide new information or perspectives! It simply regurgitates what’s already in one’s brain.
Draw a circle the size of a pie. Let’s say in this illustration that the circle/pie represents all the information and knowledge in the world. Now cut a very tiny sliver of it. Yes, that’s what we know that we know. Take another tiny sliver and that’s the equivalent of what we know that we don’t know! What’s left? Almost a whole circle/pie!
Learn how to ask questions. If you sound like an interrogator, you will leave others feeling defensive and you’ll usually get flippant responses. If you don’t listen and keep asking the same questions, people will stop sharing possible solutions. Remember, we never learn everything in one conversation! Learning is a lifelong process. That’s why there are other people in the world! Lighten up and learn to have real conversations.
Set aside ego. Admit you don’t know the answer. Learn to brainstorm ideas, particularly out-of-the-box concepts. Interestingly, many times it’s the idea that appears to be off-the-wall that provides the best solution. Also, if you have difficulty taking risks or making mistakes, you’ll never learn how to improve yourself, a project or the financial well-being of your company. You learn the most from your best teacher – experience. However, piling up too many failed experiences will not bode well for your psyche. Healthy leaders build on strengths, not weaknesses. Hire a business mentor to guide you through an operational, people or financial challenge. Mentors enable you to take calculated risks as you design and implement a strategic plan.
Listen for the gold mine. When you are truly listening, you will find a wealth of insight that you had never considered. Don’t grab the first couple of ideas and retreat, believing you now have the answers! Ask questions of others to see how you can segue these ideas into focused action plans with attainable results! Sometimes your perception of who may be the most unlikely people to talk with will surprise you; they may have the solutions that work or contacts to answer the questions!
(c)Jeannette L. Seibly, 2011