March 11, 2016 Business

Don’t Let Your Ego Stifle Feedback

Experienced leaders typically do their homework before presenting their ideas to their team.  However, all your communication style or behaviors may be intimidating, even to other experienced leaders.  Is your style preventing you from exploring better ideas and solutions for your business?

Try this.  The next time someone disagrees with your business idea, rather than defending your point  try to say a silent ‘thank you’ for the opportunity to test your ability to stay balanced and open to new ideas.  Then, listen to the other person’s input – really listen. Watch what happens.  It’s a pretty sure bet that the best of both ideas will combine to create one idea that is far more powerful than the sum of its parts.

I personally experienced this when several years ago when I was fairly new at an organization and I attended my first executive “collaboration” meeting.  The CEO discussed the benefits of our company partnering with another company to provide customers with specific benchmarking tools.  The customers had been asking for this component in our product for a long time and the CEO wanted to respond.  The company the CEO wanted to partner with was not a leader in the industry and really didn’t have a better tool than other similar companies.  The group discussed some other options, but the CEO was pretty adamant about his solution.

After the meeting some of us went to lunch and discussed the value of the proposed partnership.  To my surprise not one individual on that team supported the CEO’s idea of partnering with this company.  They expressed some very valid reasons for exploring other options.  I asked, “why didn’t you speak up”?  The table got very quiet.  One of my colleagues started laughing and said “it really doesn’t matter”.  I was still confused and told them it was vital that they speak up before the company spent all this time, resources and dollars on something they unanimously agreed wasn’t going to be effective.  Another colleague said I didn’t understand.  He said, this is your first meeting.  Those that know me will tell you that not understanding was not an option for me, so I continued to push.  Turns out although the meetings were supposed to be collaborative, anyone who disagreed with the CEO was doused pretty quickly.  Long story short, we went through with the CEO’s suggested partnership and it failed miserably.  In the end some of the suggestions we discussed at lunch almost 9 months earlier would have been far more effective for the company and its customers.

Too often, better ideas are stifled by egos.  One reason that even large organizations wither is that leaders feel they can’t challenge the old, comfortable ways of doing things.  Real leaders understand that their job changes daily as the business and customer needs change. The proper response is to change our activities to meet those changes before someone else does.  Effective leaders offer and welcome different perspectives.

So, this ‘silent thank you’ when you least feel like it may take practice and restraint, but it is fast to become a habit when you see, first hand, the results of not needing your idea to be THE ONE.