40+ Years of Management Experience Summed Up In 10 Thoughts, Part 2
Last week we started exploring 10 steps to mighty management with Thought #1 - Walk the Floor. Today we'll move onto our second topic.
Thought #2: Encourage Open Dialogue
Just because we are in the position of authority doesn’t mean that we always have the best perspective. It would serve us well to honestly and openly take some time to ask the members of our teams for THEIR thoughts on how to deal with an issue, solve a problem, address a quality challenge, etc. While our team members may not have worked their way to a leadership role, we should not assume that their contributions aren’t valid. On the contrary – often what allows us to be successful in our leadership positions is that we have a team of people all working together making us more than the sum of ourselves.
Having several minds ponder a problem and work together to find a solution is a big advantage in itself because we simply have more brainpower behind the problem. But we also gain different perspectives from people that think in a way that we don’t, who are often able to see a solution because their approach to the problem is unique from ours. Also, we’ll often find ourselves amazed at the proficiency with which our team members know their particular job and that alone may lend itself to a solution that we would never have considered.
A key in encouraging open dialogue, however, is understanding that not everyone equally comfortable in sharing their thoughts and ideas, much less something that may be perceived as negative. For some, the very idea of speaking up is enough to cause them great anxiety and even consider calling out of work for the day! Overcoming this barrier is no easy chore, but can usually be accomplished over time as your team learns to trust you, as you very intentionally support them (even when their ideas fail), and when they begin to see that you’re willing to give them time and space to express their thoughts in a non-threatening environment.
TAKE ACTION: Start by learning about personality profiles (my favorite is DISC) and get to know who on your team is extroverted and happy to offer feedback, vs. those who are more introverted and may need some encouragement. As you learn about the natural tendencies of each personality type, you’ll better understand how to encourage open dialogue and get the feedback that will help your team to reach new heights. Review your current process for soliciting feedback, recognizing that a conference room with no established rules of communication is good for some, but may inhibit others. Consider whether you routinely ask for input from the team, or if you lean toward telling them what they need to know more often. Make notes about what each team member is sharing with you, so you can start to see if there are some that are simply not sharing at all, or some that are taking the majority of your time leaving you no bandwidth to hear from others.
Kirsten Smith, founder of Made to Thrive Consulting has over 20 years Business Development and Management experience with small and large organizations alike, including those listed among the Fortune 500.
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