From Apprentice to Expert (and Back Again)
This is what makes great leaders, great!
There are several phases in our lives and across all phases, work tends to play a key role. For most, it is the one thing that tends to consume the majority of their mind space. When we are young we are eager and we want to learn and we tend to go deep and get immersed in the process. With experience we start specializing and unknowingly our world becomes smaller and smaller and somewhere down the line our learning slows down. Unfortunately, at the same time, we start feeling we are knowing more and more.
If you want to know where you stand on this fact, just ask yourself, "When is it that I last changed my opinion on something?" Let it be anything. If you are struggling to find one or even manufacture one, rest assured that you have built yourself a bubble and you have started believing that this bubble is all that the world has to offer.
Changing one's opinion about something takes courage. It takes the effort to break down your understanding or in some cases the belief of something that you have had for years together and rewire yourself with a newly found explanation.
Learning involves, in some cases, unlearning. And unlearning happens when you are open to other opinions. We should work on being open and develop the capacity to be able to update our opinion when a better explanation or understanding comes across. This is easier said than done. It takes immense practice and more importantly conscious practice.
There are several benefits to building out this capacity, especially at work and more importantly for a leader. Great leaders are great not because they were born with a core understanding about all things around them. They had to cultivate it, and many times, by breaking old cemented opinions so that new ones could grow. One of the most important outcomes is that of the compounding effect of knowledge building. It is only when you are open to new ideas, concepts and reevaluating your own understanding, will you see yourself connecting with others.
"We cannot solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." - Albert Einstein
When you are open, others want to associate with you and bring forward their own suggestions thereby fostering constructive discussions. If you are not open to alternate approaches, suggestions or a radical re-understanding of a given scenario you will tend to steer your team to the things that only you know and potentially let go of some good creative and innovative ideas.
"None of us is as smart as all of us." - Ken Blanchard
Another observation of managers and leaders who are not open to changing their opinions when better suggestions come along, is that they often end up not being able to hire team members with complementary strengths. The team tends to grow without diverse skill sets which directly impacts the team. And in turn, the team as a whole tend to make ineffective decisions.
A manager or a leader who is engrossed in their own wired methodologies alone, tends to stop listening to others. They are waiting for the other person to finish, to put forth what they have been wanting to say. Or worse, they may just start interrupting.
Their need to be right overpowers the need to know the truth.
Being closed - you stop growing, and you become stagnant, holding on dearly to and hoping things are always going to be the same way that you had perceived it. As a result, after some time others around you will move on.
It is never too late to become a person capable of being open to opinions, embracing unlearning and in the process continuously learn.
Here are few suggestions on how one should approach being open?
Listen to understand, not to respond
Question yourself, are you responding to reach the truth?
Be open to experimenting with different approaches
Spend a lot of time building awareness
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