By Gale Mote / Guest Column
Many of the teams I work with have openness as a core value. I have witnessed that this is much easier to describe on paper than in actions. Team members are encouraged to describe the behaviors that demonstrate being open to each other as well as being more transparent with their own thoughts and feelings. Even then, it takes commitment and discipline to create this valuable and important team habit.
Let’s begin with being open to others. Dale Carnegie coached that making it a priority to care and show interest in others would pay huge dividends as it is the foundation of all meaningful relationships.
First, you must hear the message. This requires being attentive to the whole person, what is being said and the non-verbal cues that sometimes tell a slightly different story. Put down the smart phone, close the laptop, step away from the desk – make it matter. Practice interpreting body language by watching the movies or you tube clips. Do some research and reading on non-verbal communication to build your skills.
Next, and most challenging, you must listen without judgment. Do not evaluate every comment right or wrong, good or bad. Be mindful when these thoughts sneak into your head. Replace them with a learner mindset – “tell me more,” “that’s interesting” or “how is that so?” Remind yourself that before you can make a judgment or decision, you must have clear and accurate information. As Stephen Covey taught us, “seek first to understand.”
The ability to ask thoughtful, clarifying questions keeps the dialogue open. When you feel like making a statement, first ask a question. “I can see that you are passionate about Supplier X for this project. When you think about what is necessary for reaching our goals, how does this supplier stand above the others?” It is helpful to keep the overall goal in mind as well as create context to help you better evaluate the message.
You do not have to agree. Being open to another person’s point of view doesn’t mean you need to align with their position or opinion. It means you demonstrate respect for every member’s voice. Effective teams care for one another. Even if we disagree, we are all working toward the same positive outcome.
Being open requires that you show empathy for a diverse position and look for common ground. It is helpful to acknowledge where you do agree and how you can support different points of an argument.
Articulating how you can see someone else’s perspective goes a long way to building the bridges necessary to keep the team moving forward. “I hear you saying that Supplier X’s quality is superior to all the others. Given your role, I understand how this is a critical parameter for you. I, too, believe that quality is important in our selection process.”
Openness is a two-sided coin. It also requires that you be reasonably transparent with your real thoughts and feelings. Remember, others cannot read your mind. They can’t visually see your thought process or how you came to your conclusions.
Be courageous and vulnerable. Make the choice to be heard, rather than remain silent. Teams make better and faster decisions only if they tap into the expertise that is available to them. Remind yourself that you are part of the team for a reason. You have valuable insights, experience and expertise that needs to be shared. Build your self-regard and focus on what you have done that is right and felt good.
Be honest, clear and concise. It is better to get to the point earlier than later. Your team members will appreciate your candor and transparency. You can be straight and kind at the same time. Humility and respect help to frame a message so others want to hear it too.
Openness is a powerful value that opens doors and invites collaboration. Make it be a visible action within your team.
Gale Mote is a trainer, organizational development catalyst and coach in Cedar Rapids. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.