You’ve worked hard to become an expert in your field. You’re highly regarded; a leader and someone to whom people look for answers. You team routinely looks to you and defers to you on how you think a problem should be tackled.
Good leaders usually know the answers, it’s true, but great leaders know who, how and when to ask to get the best solutions and the best team working on the problem.
By now. you’ve probably read that being someone who can see and incorporate multiple perspectives is a highly sought executive skill, but what does that entail? How do we go from a career of relying on problem-solving intuition and selling our own ideas to carefully considering every angle? How do we avoid the pitfalls?
If you want to learn how to incorporate multiple perspectives into your leadership toolkit, read on for six ways you can encourage alternate perspectives and foster the most dynamic results.
- Be curious. It may seem simple, but first, you have to want to learn about others’ perspectives. Be genuinely curious about other opinions and points of view. If your team is used to following your lead, you’re going to have to ask for their thoughts -- don’t wait for others to volunteer. You may even need to overcompensate for a bit, reassuring others that you want to know what they think and easing them into the habit of sharing their opinions.
- Be encouraging. It may help to consider that part of your job as a great leader is not just being an expert, but also creating them. Your credentials in your field are already established; now it’s your turn to draw ideas out of others and build effective leadership qualities in those below you. Encourage everyone to share their thoughts while you hold yours in check. Make sure to ask everyone, even those who don’t immediately volunteer.
- Be humble. Even as you practice growing your team’s problem-solving and opinion-sharing skills, don’t set your opinion as the “top of the stack” by default. Be humble and open-minded -- always assume you are about to hear a great idea. Never forget that in order to really draw your team to you, they have to be able identify with you as a leader. For that, they’re not looking for infallibility, they’re looking for relatability. Make sure your team knows you’re not perfect and you’re not looking for perfection from them, either. Create a relationship where they feel safe to share their ideas.
- Be equal. How do you ask for the opinions of your superiors? Your peers? Your team will notice if you don’t give the same care and consideration for how you consider their thoughts and ideas. Be sure that you are as receptive and open to ideas from below as above you. Remember: Your role is twofold; the next great idea could come from anywhere, and even if it doesn’t, it’s your job as a leader to foster that problem-solving and opinion-sharing in your team. Let them exercise those muscles with you at every opportunity.
- Be flexible. We’ve all been in that situation where we’ve been asked for our opinion by someone who doesn’t really want it and is perhaps asking out of habit or to be polite. It’s important to be genuine in your questions, open in your exploration and truly willing to change your mind. It will become progressively harder to draw ideas out of others if you gain a reputation of never wavering from your opinion. Be willing to take a step back and truly consider other perspectives if you want to keep the dialogue open.
- Be passionate. When a great idea comes from someone else on your team, be sure you pursue it and champion their opinion with the same passion you would apply to your own. Once you’ve gathered those alternate perspectives from your team, don’t forget to foster them moving forward. Motivate them by promoting their ideas and promoting them as experts within your organization. Model the enthusiasm with which you want to see your team fight for their own ideas.
How are you going to draw opinions from others? What techniques will you use to foster an open and idea-rich environment?
Make a plan on how you are going to be open and encouraging so that you can gain your team’s trust and unleash their creative thinking. Become a great leader who can see a problem from all sides, and you’ll become the one in your organization known to find the best solution from any perspective.
Joel Garfinkle is an executive coach who recently worked with a vice president who was perceived as narrowly focused and inflexible with his opinions. Garfinkle developed these six guidelines on the path to becoming a champion of other perspectives and was able to help the VP gain the trust of his team in seeking out new and innovative ideas. Garfinkle has written seven books, including "Getting Ahead: Three Steps to Take Your Career to the Next Level." More than 10,000 people subscribe to his Fulfillment@Work newsletter. If you sign up, you’ll receive the free e-book "41 Proven Strategies to Get Promoted Now!"