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Opening Your Mind

Opening Your Mind

There’s a common saying that human beings were given two ears (and two eyes), but only one mouth to show that they should listen (and look) at least twice as much as they speak. I think that for managers and leaders that ratio is far too low. Looking and listening should happen maybe ten or more times for every time you open your mouth to make some pronouncement or decision. Yet in our rushed, stressed, action-obsessed corporate cultures, it sometimes seems that leaders speak at least ten times as often as they listen. Is it any wonder that so much time and effort is wasted in mistakes and false starts?

A leader who is out of touch is a liability to everyone, including him or herself. A manager with a closed mind is like a ship sailing at full speed for the rocks. More mistakes and losses are caused by people who have closed minds and open mouths that by all kinds of incompetence. I think rather few managers and leaders today lack enough competence. Mostly they are well-trained and highly skilled in their specialist areas. Where many are grossly deficient is in being sufficiently open-minded and willing to listen. All their skill and experience goes to waste as a result.

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Then there’s arrogance: being too proud and full of yourself to listen to anyone except a small clique of chosen associates (and sometimes not even to them). That trait is a certain killer. There are always people who will encourage you to tune out the rest of the world and listen only to them. The trouble is that they nearly always have a hidden agenda and a strong attachment to their own self-interest. A manager who surrounds him or herself with people like this is playing an extremely risky game. You may boost your ego still further (such sycophants are expert at polishing the boss’s ego), but the price you will pay is being cut off from reality and fed a constant diet of warped data that suits the interests of your minders.

Successful leaders understand that it is never anyone else’s responsibility to save them from becoming blinded by ignorance and surrounded by minders and toadies. That is their job alone, and they make it their highest priority. If the data reaching you is wrong, limited, out-of-date, or twisted and censored by others, any decisions you make will be as poor as the data they are based on.

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How do successful leaders behave?

  • They seek out the information they need. They don’t rely on others to bring it to their attention.
  • The know that the more glib, polished, and authoritative the person speaking, the more closely he or she should be questioned. Confidence tricksters and sharp salespeople are very persuasive and articulate. The person who knows the truth may not be either, but is still the only one worth hearing.
  • They never judge the worth of a piece of information by the status of the person they get it from, only by its reliability and importance.
  • They know that laziness in seeking out and testing information opens the door to being manipulated by those who are devoted to self-interest and not to the truth.
  • They never make a final decision until they must. Until then, they keep their minds, ears, and eyes open and alert to possible changes that would require a different choice.
  • They value evidence above convenience.
  • They know judgment and emotions are poor bedfellows.
  • They are aware of their own biases and take care to allow for them in making a decision.
  • They may have strong opinions, but they hold to them very lightly. They never cling to any opinion when the evidence is pointing another way, and they drop it instantly if it proves unsound.
  • They use at least 80% of their time to look, listen, explore, analyze, reflect, and consider. Only then do they speak.

Look around you at all the people with their mouths constantly open, and their minds,eyes, and ears tightly shut to anything that doesn’t immediately support the opinions they are so eager to proclaim. That’s how many fools there are in the world. Sadly, many of them hold important positions of leadership too. Just don’t join them. They are headed for certain disaster.

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Adrian Savage is a writer, an Englishman, and a retired business executive, in that order. He lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his posts most days at Slow Leadership, the site for everyone who wants to build a civilized place to work and bring back the taste, zest and satisfaction to leadership.

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Last Updated on October 9, 2018

How to Write a Personal Mission Statement to Ensure Peak Productivity

How to Write a Personal Mission Statement to Ensure Peak Productivity

Most of you made personal, one sentence resolutions like “I want to lose weight” or “I vow to go back to school.” It is a tradition to start the New Year with things you want to achieve, but under the influence resolutions are often unrealistic.

If you’re wondering when will be a good time to write a mission statement, NOW is the time to take a personal inventory to make this year your most productive year ever. You may be asking yourself, “How am I going to do that?” You, my friends, are going to write personal mission statements.

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A large number of corporations use mission statements to define the purpose of the company’s existence. Sony wants to “become the company most known for changing the worldwide poor-quality image of Japanese products” and 3M wants “to solve unsolved problems innovatively”. A personal mission statement is different than a corporate mission statement, but the fundamentals are the same.

So why do you need one? A personal statement will help you identify your core values and beliefs in one fluid tapestry of content that you can read anytime and anywhere to stay on task toward success.

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For example, Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire came to the realization that he had lost track of what was important to him. After writing a personal mission statement, we saw him start his own business and he got the girl, Renee Zelleweger. Not bad, wouldn’t you say? A personal mission statement will make sure that, through all the texting, emailing and constant bombardment of on-the-go activity, you won’t lose sight of what is most important to you.

Mission statements can be simple and concise while others are longer and filled with detail. The length of your personal mission statement will not be determined until you follow this simple equation to create your motivational springboard for 2008.

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To begin your internal cleansing, you will need to jot down the required information in the following five steps:

  1. What are your values? Values steer your actions and determine where you spend time, energy, and most importantly, money. Be specific and unique to yourself. Too much generalization will not be as effective. It is called a “personal” mission statement for a reason.
  2. What are three important goals you hope to achieve this year? Keep your list of important goals small and give them a date. It is better to focus on the horizon and not the stars. Realistic goals are keys to ultimate success.
  3. What image do you hope to project to yourself? How you see yourself is how the world will view you. Think about this carefully. Your image should encompass what you look like and feel after you have achieved your goals.
  4. Write down action statements from each value describing how you will use those values to achieve your three goals. Start with “I will…”
  5. Rewrite your statement to include only your action statements. Make portable copies for your wallet, car or office.

If you followed the steps above, congratulations! You have just written your first personal mission statement. Your personal statement will change over the years as your goals change. You can have more than one statement for the different compartments of your life such as your career, family, marriage, etc.

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Writing a personal mission statement is an effective method to ensure your productivity is at its peak. It is an ideal tradition to start so that when next year rolls around, the outdated practice of resolutions will be something you permanently left in the past.

Featured photo credit: Álvaro Serrano via unsplash.com

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