Any culture that puts curiosity, creativity, collaboration and innovation at the forefront creates an environment where people’s ideas are encouraged, solicited and heard. It’s harder than it sounds if you’ve operated on the assumption that the boss has all the answers and makes no mistakes; many organizations operate this way.
I’ve been coaching a CEO and his VP of Operations for a few months on developing an open minded culture, where ideas come from anywhere and one of the things that has come up is how they should listen to others, but also listen to what you’re saying and to what you’re doing; that’s barely done.
For example, how am I telling people what to do? How am I soliciting their opinion, and when I do am I communicating in a very authentic way that I really want to hear it?
It’s easy to say, “tell me what you think” but deep down you’re just dismissing it because you’re overconfident in your own instincts; this happens a lot. As a leader, in accumulating power you lose the ability to hear others, and lose the ability to understand that you’re not completely right; you get so confident in your own instincts that you become more dismissive of other people. Or you think you’ve heard every argument or idea in the world, and you can quickly make big mistakes in that regard.
So as a leader you have to set the example if you tell people that they’re ideas and opinions are valued. It starts with you. Remember, communication isn’t just the words that come out of your mouth; it’s also your body language.
How can you make it so you stop being dismissive?
Tell your colleagues to call you out when you’re being dismissive of their ideas, or are soliciting them unauthentically. That will put you in your place. We’re all guilty of it. So it’s best to say, “hey, tell me when I’m being dismissive. I want to know”.