How to Lead with an Open Mind
A lot of business owners consider themselves open to differing points of view.
But I can tell you from experience, we don’t really know how open we actually are until we’re leading a team and trying to sustain the business that feeds our families.
The stakes are suddenly very high. We’re also more vulnerable, positioning ourselves as leaders and feeling the pressure to always appear confident.
Suddenly, we find ourselves slamming doors on opinions that don’t align with our own beliefs and assumptions. We feel immediate resistance to unsolicited pitches from our employees. We start mentally preparing our defense the minute someone asks if they can offer some feedback.
The more we do this, the slower our progress becomes, both as individuals and as a company.
I myself have had to learn how to open up to the input of others. It’s not an easy process. But it’s the reason we’ve been able to grow 911 Restoration to the thriving national franchise it is. It’s also the reason our franchisees love working with us. They know they’ll be heard here.
Your staff, your data, your customers… these are all resources that can help you excel in your field and massively increase revenue. But to take advantage of these resources, you have to get over yourself and learn how to listen.
If this has been a struggle for you—or if you’re not sure when you should be following your own gut rather than following the guidance of someone else—I can help.
Here’s how you can cultivate a more open mind so you can lead with insight and clarity.
Step 1: Get Real with Yourself
I’ll never stop saying it.
Everything begins within.
You’ve got to examine what’s going on in your own heart and mind when you’re presented with ideas that contradict your own.
Do you feel resistance? Where is that resistance coming from?
Some business owners feel threatened by contradictory opinions or data because deep down, they’re afraid it reflects poorly on them as a leader. They think that their team will only respect them if they’re always right.
Others are so firmly rooted in their own perspective they immediately dismiss any suggestion that comes from a different perspective as wrong.
Maybe one of these two things ring true for you. Or maybe your resistance comes from the fact that your instincts guide you towards the familiar, while other opinions (or even data) encourage you to try something that falls well outside your comfort zone.
There are countless possible reasons you’d rather slam your mind shut than open it wide. Take some time to examine yourself and really understand what’s going on.
That self-awareness is key to cultivating a more open mind.
Step 2: Examine Your Definition of Leadership
In addition to examining yourself, you need to take a close look at what you imagine when you imagine a good leader.
Is a good leader someone who always knows the way? Or is it someone who knows how to guide others to use their best skills to build the way?
I’ll tell you now, the second definition is the only one that’s actually going to work for you.
That doesn’t mean you’re not the one with the vision. You absolutely are. As a leader, it’s very important that you know what you’re driving towards… and that you don’t let anyone else’s vision interfere with your own.
But you’re going to need the help of others to find the best strategies to fulfill that vision.
As entrepreneurs, we need to accept the fact that we are not good at everything. We are not insightful about everything. We need people around us who can contribute perspectives and ideas that we would never come up with on our own.
Our strength as leaders is not in our ability to know everything, but in our ability to pool and manage the knowledge brought to us by a team of people.
When you can embrace this definition, hearing ideas with an open mind gets way easier.
Step 3: Take Inventory of Your Own Strengths and Weaknesses
What is your area of expertise? Where do you have the deepest insight? What areas are more of a struggle for you?
Take some time to figure it out. This will allow you to feel more confident navigating information and feedback that contradict your own assumptions.
Let’s say you’re stellar at sales and encourage your sales team to open sales calls with a specific question that has always gotten great results. But one of your techs suggest a different strategy. When you’ve already done the work to identify those areas where you excel and those where you need the input of others, you can immediately recognize:
- You are more likely to be correct about the best way to strategize a sales call.
- Your tech probably has unique insight into customer priorities because they’re working directly with customers on a daily basis.
- You can consider their input and determine whether it might be worth applying their insight to your strategy.
You see how it suddenly has nothing to do with who’s right and who’s wrong? Who’s in charge and who needs to take a seat? It’s two people with different perspectives joining those viewpoints to achieve a more powerful strategy.
On that note:
Step 4: Acknowledge the Strengths of Your Team
One really great way to be open to being wrong is to clearly identify those areas in which your team is more likely to be right.
Who is your marketing genius? What about your customer service guru? Your tech expert?
Take it one step further and actively invite feedback from your team members in their area of expertise. When your employees begin to see that they’re going to be asked for their advice, they engage more proactively with the growth of the business.
Step 5: Remember the Elephant
There’s an ancient parable about a group of blind men encountering an elephant for the first time. They’ve never come in contact with an elephant before, and as they touch the elephant, they each describe what an elephant is.
One person feels the long, narrow trunk and says an elephant is a thick snake. Another feels the tail and says an elephant is a rope. Another places his hands against the elephant’s body and declares it a wall.
They all get pissed off at each other, each convinced that the others are lying because the others are saying things they “know” are not true.
But everyone is telling the truth based on their experience. Their insight is so wildly different because they are dealing with a very large animal.
Your business is a pretty large animal in its own right.
When a member of your team suggests an idea that feels so catastrophically incorrect, consider whether it might make sense from their perspective.
What is your tech seeing that makes them think your perfectly streamlined system of operations is not as efficient as it could be? Why does your office manager worry that your marketing sets the wrong expectations for your customers?
Recognize that these people are coming at the same problem from a completely different perspective. They might not necessarily be right. But they could be. And more importantly, their experience has something to teach you.
Step 6: Get Out of Your Own Way
This is really what it all comes down to.
To lead with an open mind, you have to set your ego aside. You have to understand why you feel resistance to other ideas, and you have to be able to recognize that resistance when it happens.
Cultivate self-awareness and lean into the strengths and unique perspectives of your team.
When you do that, you’ll make incredible things happen.
Further Resources on This Topic
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