How Open is Your Mind?

We did a lot of camping as a young family, and on one trip, I experienced an unexpected leadership lesson.  I noticed it after it happened, of course, as I am seldom astute enough to see it at the time!  Sigh.

The leadership principle unfolded as my youngest daughter and I took down our tent so that we could pack it up.  If you have ever taken down a tent, you know that it involves about a thousand specific steps that must be done in a precise order so that everything fits in the bag exactly as it was intended.

Oh wait, it’s that complicated only if you are a perfectionist.  Like me.  Again, sigh.

One of the disassembly jobs involved rolling up the tent fly (similar to a rain cover that goes over the tent) so that it fits into a small little bag to be stored within the larger tent bag.  That was my daughter’s job so I left it to her, assuming of course, that she would do it the same way that her Dad has always done it.

My assumption was wrong.  Rather than roll it up, she folded it up.

Shock!  That is not the way that I do it.  Her way probably won’t work.

Bigger shock!  Her way worked better than mine.  Yet again, sigh.

So what is the leadership lesson?  That I don’t know how to pack a tent fly into its bag?  Perhaps.  That my daughter is a natural problem solver?  True, but I already knew that.  Hmm … I think the lesson is even bigger.

The leadership principle that struck me on our family camping trip is that a good leader is open to the ideas of others

A single leader does not have a monopoly on the best leadership ideas.  I don’t have all of the best ideas.  And neither do you.

One of the keys to effective and sustainable leadership is that we allow (and actually seek out) leadership ideas from people around us.  A healthy leadership team is packed full of creative, innovative, and effective ideas waiting to be uncovered and put into action!

As leaders, part of your and my job is to create an environment that allows (and encourages) new ideas to bubble to the surface.

So how do you create such an environment?

  1. Ask yourself if you are a narcissistic leader.  Who gets the glory for the organization’s success?  Whose ideas are always put into action?  The answer to both questions should not be “me and mine”, but rather “all of us and ours”.
  2. Ask others for their ideas, and take the time to listen.  Here is a principle that leaders often forget … if you want the best ideas from your team, you have to give them the best information that you have.  If you control the information, you will also control the ideas.  However, if you share the best information with your team, your team will share their best ideas with you!
  3. If you and someone on your team have very similar ideas, go with theirs.  What a great way to validate their creativity and problem-solving skills! You can bet that others on your team will notice and be more willing to step up as well.  And remember, the goal is organizational success, not just personal success.

Great leaders are open to the ideas of others.  You and I have a limited amount of brainpower and problem-solving ability, so get your team involved in the process and watch your capacity and effectiveness explode!

Mark

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