You probably know of some managers who are brilliant at engaging people but you’re not sure quite why those people are so good. The earlier instalments of this series could have helped you up to a level to understand why. They provided some basic understanding of how to engage your work team members and staff effectively.
Beginning today and in the next three weeks, we will add more information to those foundations and provide you with a number of secrets of engaging leaders.
Being open minded means being open to the opinions, views, ideas, proposals, arguments and so on of the people you work with. Being open to others’ views doesn’t mean that you have to accept them because you’re bound to have your own views. Instead, ‘being open’ means having an open, rather than a closed, mind: being willing to at least consider others’ views and opinions.
When you have an open-minded management style, you focus on empowering your team members by listening and responding to their ideas, issues, ways of thinking and approaches to their work. Your door is always open to staff.
Although you are still in charge, you do not ‘lay down the law’. Instead, you make decisions based on a careful consideration of your own ideas, as well as those of others. This is also known as participative management -- in which employees take a more active role in the business.
What are the qualities you have to develop to become open-minded?
Flexibility: You must be willing to bend when necessary, to be accommodating and do what is best for the company and its employees. You must be willing and able to listen attentively and give thoughtful feedback.
Logical thinking: The consideration of a variety of opinions allows you to be reasonable in making final choices.
Courage: The decisions you make when being open minded are often ones that involve change and therefore, carries an element of risk. You need courage to take right decisions.
There are number of advantages for being open-minded. One is that your team members are often inspired by your approach and will follow willingly, even when the business struggles in tough economic times. A flexible leader has the opportunity to use new methods and instil new ways of thinking, which greatly benefit his company - as he employs various approaches until problems are resolved.
You may think that encouraging your work team members to express their views openly and honestly is risky because they may put you on the spot and you may not be sure about how to respond. More specifically, you may feel more vulnerable encouraging team members to question or even challenge your point of view because they may:
Highlight that you haven’t thoroughly thought through a decision.
Undermine your view.
Prove you wrong.
It’s not an issue. Invite all team members for a meeting and tell them to be open and honest in conversations with you and each other. Explain to them the reasons:
Your role as a leader is to get to the right decision regarding a work issue or problem: you don’t have to come up with the answer yourself!
Only through encouraging your team members to (a) share their ideas, suggestions and viewpoints, can you tap into their knowledge and expertise, (b) question and challenge your thinking and that of their team members, can your team members develop their ability to improve how they think (c) and improving the quality of thinking leads to improved mutual understanding of work issues, better decisions, greater commitment and improved results.
They will understand. By setting an example that you’re willing to have your views challenged and even proved wrong you can encourage your team members to take risks in expressing their views and have their own views challenged.
Vulnerability requires great levels of strength and courage. It requires courage to be who we are despite our fears of not being accepted or liked. It requires that we ourselves accept the parts of ourselves that we don’t like or are ashamed of.
It requires courage to talk about our failures and take accountability for them. It requires courage to admit that we are feeling uncertain or that we don’t know all the answers.
So, how do we develop our ability to be vulnerable? Here are some exercises to practice vulnerability:
Reveal something – Practice revealing more about yourself to your work team members. Share something about your background, your values, your story or a failure you experienced and what you learned from it. You’d be surprised how many truths we don’t reveal about ourselves, truths that we expend a lot of energy maintaining as secrets, that people already know about us.
The other day, I was watching Diana Keough, a Pulitzer-prize-nominated medical journalist, sharing her own riveting story in her talk ‘The Power of Personal Story’. She suggests sharing with others “this is what you need to know about me to really know me” and how this revealing of who you really are can free you up to be who you are truly capable of being, to expand your ability to connect and innovate.
Declare how you feel in the moment – The next time you are feeling uncertain or embarrassed, just declare it. I normally start with “I have a confession to make”. It usually gets people to listen and be prepared for what’s coming next. The fact is that when you are uncertain, most people know that anyway. Putting it out in the open creates an environment of greater authenticity and truth.
Tell your team members that the culture of authenticity, transparency and truth is what we want to grow in our organisation. When you are able to be vulnerable you give others permission to do the same and it creates greater connection and honest conversations within the team.
Admit it when you’re wrong – When you accept your mistakes, it creates a culture where people can take accountability for failure, to learn from it and to move on. It also creates a culture of innovation where risk-taking is accepted.
Without acceptance of failure, cultures don’t tolerate calculated risk-taking. What this requires from the team members (including you) is the courage to be imperfect, the compassion to accept ourselves as we are (and thus accept others as they are) and the humility to say “I am sorry”.
Admit your weaknesses – No leader is perfect. It is really the strongest leaders who are able to admit their weaknesses. When we openly recognize our own weaknesses, we allow ourselves to seek team members who can complement our skill sets, creating well-balanced and diverse teams where each person brings unique strengths to the table. We also get powerful advocates who are willing to step up to help us, if we are willing to ask them to, to grow in our area of opportunity.
Recognize others for their ability to be vulnerable – When someone has stepped outside of their comfort zone to be vulnerable, authentic and honest, take a moment to recognize them.
Celebrate your imperfections – When you notice something about you that is imperfect, give yourself a high-five and say “now isn’t that adorable”. Seriously, try it. You’ll be surprised how much better that feels versus the usual stern reprimand you get from your inner critic.
So, here’s a little exercise to try. List out your perceived weaknesses and then next to each write down why this ‘weakness’ is a gift. How has it served you? You’ll be surprised about what you will learn.
(Lionel Wijesiri is a retired corporate director counting three decades of senior management experience. He is now an independent consultant and a freelance journalist. He may be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org)