When was the last time you had a meaningful disagreement with a member of your team? How about the last time one of your team members said you were wrong or challenged one of your ideas?
If you’re having trouble remembering, you may have a problem: Your team is afraid to talk to you, and you don’t know it.
On the surface, many teams look like they’re getting along seamlessly. They nod along in agreement during meetings, they follow orders without complaint, and they meet their deadlines. However, as a leader it can be impossible for you to see what’s going on beneath the surface. And if your team is afraid to speak their minds, the culture below the surface is fundamentally broken.
Business culture celebrates powerful, successful leaders like Elon Musk and Steve Jobs who position themselves as being the smartest man in the room. We idolize these leaders and promote the myth that a strong leader is one who has an opinion on everything — and that their opinion is always the right one.
In reality, the most effective leaders aren’t those who talk over others. They’re the ones who hire the best people they can for the job and then listen to their ideas.
When you flip that image of a strong leader on its head, you end up with someone who is curious. Who asks questions when someone has a different idea rather than shutting it down or opposing it.
Leaders who listen make space for their team to work at their best rather than shuffling along at half-potential or — worse — self-sabotaging their own efforts as a result of malicious compliance.
Of course, this shift is much easier said than done. The nature of the job means leaders are often at the head of the meeting, which creates a power dynamic that can stifle participation and innovation from the rest of the team.
It takes self-awareness and courage for a leader to step back and be a participant rather than ruling the team through ego, but the results are worth it.
Recently, a client who had hired the Alignment Company to lead a series of facilitated meetings said to me, “I never knew what my team really thought until I watched them interact rather than leading them in their interactions.” They worked with this team every day but hadn’t been able to see beneath the surface to what was really going on with their team.
That’s because it’s next to impossible to listen if you’re at the head of every meeting, and you insist on pushing your opinion on every topic. When you step back and give your team room to speak their mind to you, the results to your team’s performance can be transformative.
I invite all leaders to make themselves stronger not by speaking louder but by listening more. After all, the world doesn’t need more angry leaders who can shut down all opposition. The world needs more people who can actually hear the voices around them.
If you want to lead in a way that encourages people to share what they really think, reach out and schedule a call to learn more about our team alignment services.