Nothing stimulates the discussion of great ideas quite like an open mind.
It’s Friday afternoon at the weekly leadership team meeting, and the CEO is holding court as usual. Issues are presented. But also as usual, the issues that are discussed are initiated and directed by the CEO. Discussion as it happens is a formality and simply meant to fill in the blanks on the CEO’s solution. At the end of the meeting, a ‘resolution’ is reached, everyone is on board, and the team files out of the meeting with marching orders.
What if the solution was the wrong one – because of the leader’s inability to listen?
Imagine that a decision was faulty, and by implementing it, the organization loses reputation, money, or jobs?
What CEO wants that? Despite what some politicians will say, I’ve found that CEO’s and business owners are not actually monsters – they are people like rest of us, except with a lot more responsibility to run a successful business. For big decisions, there is literally people’s livelihoods on the line (and if the company produces a product with safety concerns, lives on the line, too). Having spent time with CEO’s and owners from large multinational companies to small family businesses, there’s a lot at stake and pressure to perform. And quickly.
So if you are a decision maker, what are some steps that you can make to make good decisions?
If you follow the Entrepreneurial Operating System (called EOS®), At the heart of leadership team’s effectiveness is its ability to IDS – to identify, discuss and solve problems.
From the moment a team sits down at its weekly EOS® Level 10 TM meeting, the hunt for issues begins. From tracking progress on quarterly objectives to taking the temperature of the entire organization, ears are open for roadblocks, stumbles and delays.
When an issue is on the table, first clarify the REAL issue. Ask out loud – is this the issue that should be solved forever? Then open the floor to all possible solutions. Start with one possible solution.
The team should be encouraged poke holes in the potential solution by asking hard questions. Questions lead to understanding. And understanding could translate into those ‘aha’ moments that bring energy to the team and power the way to opportunity and innovation.
The key here is to listen, not to defend.
Then rinse and repeat – consider the next potential solution for the issue. Ask questions, rinse and repeat. for each potential solution. One of these potential solutions should appear as the best possible solution.
Wow, that sounds great, right? But extremely rare. So how the heck does a leader pull this off?
When an issue is front and center, it’s time for the leadership team to shine. As Patrick Lencioni argues, team health and its resultant ability to capture opportunities, is the last, great competitive advantage in business.
Trust, productive conflict and the ability to commit to solutions – in spite of disagreement – are 3 of the 5 hallmarks of a cohesive team. Standing in the way of this cohesion, a silent idea killer could lay in wait: a closed mind.
In Daniel Pink’s recent video (Pinkcast 3.09), he discusses the topic of intellectual humility. This refers to an individual’s understanding that what they think, what they believe, could be wrong. What a concept!
Contrary to what they may feel, a leader displaying intellectual humility is a sign of strength, rather than weakness. Psychologically, they may believe acceptance they might be wrong, or even only partially correct, invalidates their experience, their intelligence.
Ever hear of the expression, “the older I get, the less I know?” This mindset is the wisdom of experience. No matter the track record of success, effectiveness often stems from a belief that issue analysis begins with more questions than answers. Often questions lead to even more questions.
Effective leaders have confidence in themselves. Their experience and knowledge allows them know the questions that need asking. And they truly believe their own solutions are one of many. So, they eagerly solicit others’ ideas and ask clarifying questions to fully understand alternative opinions.
No matter the issue, it’s a given that any team wants to unearths the best opportunities, the best solutions. Your best chance for that is when all ideas are voiced, explored with open minds.
Keep looking for that ‘aha’ moment.
Thoughts to consider
After hundreds of sessions with leadership teams, we’ve seen many experienced and successful leaders make the mistake of not truly listening to the ideas presented at the leadership table.
Here are some ideas to be sure all the best ideas are heard:
- Establish an environment of trust – one where are team members are encouraged, even rewarded, for sharing their ideas.
- Ask questions and keep asking questions. In Pink’s video entry, he recommends The Book of Beautiful Questions: The Powerful Questions That Will Help You Decide, Create, Connect, and Lead by Warren Berger.
- Develop the mindset that your ideas are good, but they may not be best. Or they may only be a part of the solution. Remember, the other leaders at the table are there for a reason. They’re also smart and experienced. Let them earn their money.
- If you’re idea isn’t adopted, don’t sulk. Don’t get angry. Instead, work to understand why a given solution has been chosen and give the logic the benefit of the doubt. The course of action is going to happen whether you like it or not. And it needs your commitment and best effort to succeed. Or would you rather it fails? Hopefully not.
Talk with us about ensuring your leadership team operates in an environment of ideas. We’re often asked to facilitate a Five Dysfunctions of a Team workshop that helps improve leadership team cohesion and effectiveness.
About Grow Exceptional
Grow Exceptional works with leadership teams to help get their businesses “unstuck” by implementing and teaching the widely adopted Entrepreneurial Operating System process (EOS®).