Our stories are based on our reality. It’s impractical to approach leadership strategies and management decisions from one point of view. However, what our brains see may often not be reality. For example, 5 years ago, I bought a white car. Occasionally when I looked at that car, I questioned if it was white. It sometimes did not look white. I had a stunning breakthrough this week after cataract surgery; when I looked through my right eye, I saw that my car was white! Through my left eye, I saw the color of dirty water! Cataracts distorted my perception.
As a COO, one of the most trying aspects of my role was to open myself to other perspectives. And, like many of you, I was time pressed with a long list of must do’s that seemed to have no end.
I remember thinking I had the answer, the best way to pursue a path, and then I would fail. Along the way, I learned that FAIL means “first attempt in learning.” I was sometimes impatient, unaware of a blind spot in my thinking. That blind spot believed my reality was the same as your reality. Since then, I have learned that as leaders we are responsible for seeking more and becoming better thinkers. This cannot be done in isolation. To be an effective leader, I need to understand your point of view rather than force you to accept mine based on my past experiences.
Having an open mind is essential to hearing other perspectives. You can sharpen this ability by practicing the following the next time your perspective differs from another person:
- Start with the position that the other person’s idea or position is at least 10% right
- Focus on what is right by agreeing with that 10% and adding your perspective
- Shut down the inner critic screaming, “this is too hard, don’t do it”
- Keep going to fuel creativity and deep insight while building common ground
- Reach a mutually beneficial outcome
By recognizing that the other person is 10% right, I:
- Broadened my viewpoint
- Saw things differently
- Became a better person