It’s a complex world, the one you work in. Way too complex for any one leader to have all the answers. Everyone holds a piece of the truth.
Once you really get that, you’re on the road to enlightened leadership.
The seemingly confident, directive, get-‘er-done manager whose M.O. is, “My way or the highway” might seem “strong,” but come on — it’s weakness and insecurity that leads someone to say, “My mind’s made up; don’t confuse me with differing perspectives.” (Yes, of course there are exceptions: a fire in the factory, an ethical breech, a safety violation…)
It’s downright immature to be focused on being right. What about what’s in the best interests of the organization? Virtually everyone who studies leadership these days knows that opening to others’ ideas leads to a higher level of performance.
But getting diverse perspectives on the table — so the best results can be achieved — only happens when people feel safe to fully participate in the conversation. When they do, the kind of brainstorming that sparks creativity and excites synergy can take place. Here’s one way to help people feel safe to bring out their best.
Only when everyone’s perspectives are considered can the best result be achieved
Let’s say you’re facing a conversation that’s likely to engender disagreement, or even conflict, but you think it’s critical for your perspective to be expressed. Play with this format:
The bottom line: you must truly believe that your perspective is but one way to view the truth, that you can learn from others’ perspectives, and that only when everyone’s perspectives are considered can the best result be achieved. Then you convey those beliefs in the tone you set in the conversation. This is when magic can happen.
YOUR PATH FORWARD: Next time you know you’re going to have a challenging conversation in which your opinion is going to conflict with someone else’s, take five minutes to plan what you’re going to say, using the steps above. Then after the conversation, take another few minutes to ask yourself:
- How effectively did I express what I wanted to say?
- To what extent was I genuinely curious about the other’s perspective, and open to having my perspective tweaked?
- How well did I listen?
- What was the tone of our relationship throughout the conversation, especially at the end?
- What do I intend based on what I learned in this reflection?