How Open Are You Really?

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Great leaders bring out the best in their team members. They create an environment in which employees feel inspired and empowered to go above and beyond their defined roles. Their passion, energy, and ideas are flowing.

Most of us aspire to this kind of leadership. After all, it's a lot more rewarding to unleash other people's potential than to simply direct what they do. But beware of a few stumbling blocks that may either keep you from being open to others' ideas or cause people to see you as unreceptive:

Block 1: You Never Stop Talking

Just. Stop. If you always talk far more than you listen, others may think that you just want an audience; that you're not interested in them or their ideas.

Block 2: You're Not Actively Listening

But there's a lot more to listening than simply not talking when someone else is. There’s a big difference between waiting to speak and being fully present to take in what the other person has to say. Be curious. Ask more questions to ensure you really understand the other person’s underlying intent and key messages.

Block 3: You Don't Explain What You're Thinking

As a high performer, you're adept at processing information quickly. When someone presents an idea during a meeting, you've probably evaluated its viability before they've even finished speaking. You may know right away that the idea won't work, or that it needs to go back to the drawing board. But others may not understand the reasons behind your decision unless you spell them out. Remember to "connect the dots" so that it's clear you are giving thought to ideas and not merely dismissing them.

Block 4: Your Follow-Up Falls Short

How do you follow up when someone shares an idea with you? Does your follow-up look different if you think the idea is good or bad? If you don’t like their idea, don’t just hope they never bring it up again. Help the person understand how it does or doesn’t fit in with the criteria for a feasible solution, and use it as a learning opportunity.

Block 5: You Micromanage

You might tell your team that you're open to their ideas, but if you return every proposal marked up with your "red pen," they will take away a very different message. This kind of micromanagement doesn’t really leverage the value you bring, and it definitely doesn't help develop your team members.

This week, notice how open you are to others — and how your actions affect their perception of your openness. Then pick one of these strategies to implement. For more on bringing out the best in others, check out my guide Building a Stronger Team. It's part of the Leadership EDGE SeriesSM.