We can learn a lot from artists about failure. A ceramic artist named Tonya Rund who uses a technique called raku to create her art uses failure to her advantage. I treasure and own several of her wall pieces, which I see as abstract reflections of the outdoor environment that surrounds my home. She captures nature with dimension, light, originality, and a lot of grace*.
Tonya doesn’t see failure as the truth, something final, or a thing to be ashamed of. What the business world describes as failure is not something she’s familiar with. There is no “flop” in her work. There is only learning and surprise.
When she begins to create a piece, she has a vision of what the endpoint is, but she has to stay emotionally unattached to that outcome. She never really knows exactly what the piece will look like after it’s fired; there are just too many variables that come into play: the amount of heat that touches the piece, the humidity in the air, the combustibles used, and many others. Sometimes, after firing and during the cooling process, a piece that she’s put a lot of work into will crack, rendering it useless for sale. She says the final outcome is always a surprise but well worth the treasure.
I appreciate the pieces I own more, knowing that she’s had to experience and learn from loss.
So what can you, as a business leader, learn from an artist such as Tonya? Some mindsets you can take on to ensure failure is an option:
Failure shouldn’t devastate. It should inform. When you encourage a culture of experimentation, you must also encourage learning from failure and mistakes. You accept failure when it happens and ask the right questions to avoid the similar problems in the future. Subsequent attempts are always better, wiser and more sustainable. Encourage creativity and experimentation. Accept and learn from failure.
Perfectionism is a curse. Detaching from the perfect outcome is a blessing. Envisioning an outcome is always a good way to start something. How can you possibly close the gap between where you are (a lump of clay) and where you want to be (a finished, polished work of art) without that vision? Imagine the final outcome, but don’t expect or require the final creation to be exactly as you anticipate it (it just might be better!). Let go of the expectation that things will turn out perfect. Expect the best, and something that is different, but better, than what you imagined can happen.
Failure shouldn’t be feared. Surprise should be welcomed. Failure can happen anytime. Fearing it is constricting, leaving you rigid and unable to create as you go, inhibiting necessary change. When we we’re open to surprise, it allows us to see possibility, new things that we may not have noticed. Those things provided us with a rich storehouse of new options that we can learn from. Fear inhibits. Expecting the unexpected frees you to see new possibilities.
There is a lot for you to learn from art, where failure is always an option.
*If you’re interested in learning more about what Tonya does and to view more of her work, please visit her site.
I’m a pushover for flowers, filling the house with plenty of them as long as the things we’ve planted around our yard keep blooming. My daughter knows this and gave me a lovely potted calla lily for Mother’s Day. It was something to plant outdoors eventually, but meanwhile, I wanted to enjoy it indoors for a while.
I gave this lovely plant some water and parked it on the dining room table, happy as I caught sight of the lush foliage and the lovely deep purple flowers every time I walked into the room. Our house is well shaded this time of year, and despite the windows nearby, I watched over the next week as the purple faded and the leaves stretched toward the little bit of sunlight that streams into the East window in the morning.
Drat. That lily was looking weak and unfulfilled. I scooped it up and put it outdoors on the deck where it could get the right amount of light to grow. In one day – yes, one day – the flowers had opened wide and the purple color deepened. The leaves perked up and the plant was even lovelier than it was when I received it.
It was flourishing and would soon be growing. It didn’t take much, just some time in the right conditions.
Likewise, those you lead need some of your time and the right conditions to flourish and grow. It really doesn’t take much; a small amount of time and the right attitude and support on your part:
A light touch to gently guide others in the ways of your organization. Most managers will tell you that they have very smart people who work for them. If this is true for you, then it doesn’t take a heavy hand to manage them. As long as they understand the “what” and the “why” of what needs to be done, you can relax and let them figure out how to get things done. Make sure they know that you are there to help them be successful when they need you and be sure to check in with them on a regular basis to gently recalibrate your guidance as needed.
Recognize opportunities that will help them to grow on a continual basis. Your best employees will be eager to have new experiences that help them to learn. Make sure you understand what motivates each of them and help them to seek out stretch assignments, coursework, training, or other opportunities that will keep them interested and up to date on the work they’re doing. The same is true if you have managers who report to you. How do you help them to become and sustain themselves as leaders? Your HR partner should be able to assist with ideas.
Encouragement for the good work they are doing and to achieve the potential you see in them. This kind of encouragement covers the bases for what they are currently doing and what you see them as capable of doing in the future. Everyone needs it, even if you think they don’t; trust me, you won’t overdo it. Encouragement is to your employees like nourishment to the roots of plants is to the flowering process. It is foundational, providing the fuel needed for employees to blossom.
Coaching and feedback are generally different things, but both are needed. When have you coached your employees in their development? If done well, it will help them to self-correct, which allows you to give less corrective feedback to them over time. In the meantime, feedback is necessary in order for them to see and correct the things that you observe that they may not. Don’t avoid the tough messages, but deliver them with kindness and care.
Despite employee’s pleas for a bigger paycheck and better benefits, once their basic needs are met what they really want is to flourish and grow. How will you help them to do that?
Mary Jo Asmus is an executive coach and a former corporate executive who has spent the past decade as president of Aspire Collaborative Services, an executive-coaching firm that manages large-scale corporate-coaching initiatives and coaches leaders to prepare them for bigger and better things.
Reprinted with permission from SmartBlog on Leadership
In a ballet class, you begin at the barre. The basic steps are practiced there, in front of a mirror, so that you’re supported by the structure of the barre. There, you practice the foundational movements of ballet in order to move on to the next part of class which takes place in the middle of the room without a support to hang onto.
Practicing at the barre, you can observe the ballerina in front of you. When I was in ballet class, I saw this as an opportunity to watch and learn from the best person in the class, getting to class early so I could have this choice spot. I was watching for specific things: how this “best in class” ballerina rose on her pointe shoes, how her leg turned in just the right way to stretch it up to the barre, or how she positioned her fingers at her side. If I liked what I saw, I’d try it.
As a leader, you have opportunities to observe specifics every day from the best leaders in your organization, your community, and the world. You must continue to get better and learn new things. One of the best ways to do so is to observe those leaders you admire for things that you’d like to “take on” or improve in your leadership.
You only get better with observation and practice. You must be intentional about your observations because the distractions are constant. You can start here:
What is it that you want to learn? Who is best in class, and what are they doing? Perhaps you’d like to get better at team facilitation, or coaching your staff. Look around and find the best in class in those specific things. What is it that is compelling about the way they do those things? While still remaining true to who you are, what are you willing to try?
When and how will you practice? Although it’s an important first step, observation isn’t enough. Now that you’ve decided what you’d like to learn, you need to try on this new behavior! Unlike many other professions, leadership is practiced in real time on the job. What specific venue do you want to try it in? How do you want to show up with this new behavior? How will others see you? Observe yourself in real time as practice, and ask for feedback from those around you.
How did that feel? Is your practice something that needs tweaking? Consider what you felt as you tried out this new behavior. Did it feel natural or stilted? Does it allow you to remain authentic to who you are? What feedback did you receive, and how might that inform any changes you want to make to this new “practice”?
Now you can make the changes you need to make and continue to practice. Not too far into the future, you’ll find that you don’t even have to think about how to practice; it will become a new habit, allowing you to take your leadership to a new level.
Someone who reports to you has a problem they want to solve, and they say they need your help solving it. A little bit of adrenaline kicks into your brain because you love to solve problems, and you can’t wait to hear more.
Stop and think deeply now. How will solving their problem help THEM over the long haul?
You might notice that the really smart and talented people who report to you don’t want your advice, even when they ask for it. How many times have you given your solutions and watched them walk away and actually use the recommendations you gave them? Ok, maybe they have, but they do so with little enthusiasm.
They really don’t want your advice. Even if they accept it, they do so begrudgingly. If they use it, they will use it reluctantly.
Do you really want those talented people who are brimming with oodles of untapped potential to go about their days doing what you tell them because you’re the boss (and they feel like they have to)?
Consider this: If you ask the right questions in the right way, they can figure out what they need to figure out for themselves. They’ll like their own solutions so much more than yours. Their creativity and intuition will kick in. They’ll become motivated. They’ll learn.
They’ll love your questions. If they are driven, smart, talented and want to learn, give them questions instead of solutions.
If you see the sense in this, you’ll need to exercise that question-asking part of your brain because you’ve been solving everyone’s problems all these years.
The way to start is to keep a few questions handy that seem to work to get people’s thinking juices started. Here are some you can start with.
To help them brainstorm solutions:
What will that look like when you’re done?
Where are you at with that right now?
What’s the gap between where you are at right now and where you want this to be?
How will you fill that gap?
To get them thinking about taking action:
What’s the first step you will take?
What’s your next step?
What are you willing to try?
What will keep you from doing that?
When can you start?
If you were courageous, what would you do?
To get them to commit:
What are you committing to over the next (hour, day, week, etc.)?
When can you do that?
What will keep you from doing that?
How can I help?
When should we assess your progress?
When they are really stuck:
What’s stopping you?
What does your (head or heart) tell you to do?
What assumptions are you making about that?
When they did what they said they’d do with great success:
What did you do well?
What surprised you about what you did?
What did you learn from that experience?
What’s your next step?
When you don’t have enough information to even ask a question:
Can you say more about that?
Try questions in place of problem solving and watch how smart and driven your employees (and you) become!
Most of us appreciate someone’s honest feedback and opinion about us and what matters to us. When delivered with care, honesty can be a way forward for us, a catalyst to becoming a better leader and human being. Although it may sting for a moment, if we take a deep breath and understand that the honest criticism is being given with our best interests in mind, we know there might be something to learn in what we hear.
Yet brutal honesty may elicit a different reaction. An opinion given in a manner that is blunt or delivered with the heat of strong negative emotions has no heart. It can hurt for a very long time. Brutal honesty can be heartless, bruising the recipient’s psyche with hidden injuries that are every bit as damaging as physical blows.
We need more honesty and less brutality in the conversations that happen in our organizations. More often than not brutality escalates and spreads leading to dysfunction just as it would in any other setting (was your family “brutally honest” with each other? If so, you know the negative impact it can have).
You are a leader who is being watched. The behaviors you model will become accepted by those around you, becoming inhumane if that’s what you model. Brutal honesty is not acceptable. Honesty delivered with respect and care is what you want to exhibit and – frankly – what you want to get. Try these for modifying your brutal delivery:
If your emotions are getting the better of you, walk away and save the honest feedback for later when you can be calm. Recognize when your emotional state may take over, with words that bruise and power that delivers venom. Notice the physical sensations that begin the process of brutality in you (heart racing, flushing, etc.), and excuse yourself, with the comment that the discussion should continue later.
Don’t make excuses for your own cruel or demeaning behaviors. There is no excuse for being cruel. Explanations – to yourself or those you’ve harmed – only serve to self-justify the harm you cause. The only way to deliver the message in a way that keeps you and others whole is with civility.
Deliver the message with respect for the individual(s) who need to hear it. There is no guarantee you’ll get the same respect in return. You may still get pushback, defensiveness and bad behavior. Take some deep breaths and understand that those to whom your message is intended need to hear what you have to say, but do it with kindness and their reaction may moderate over time. Simply listen to their pushback and defensiveness, even if it’s hard to do so.
Notice your own defensiveness when it arises, threatening to wash over you. Defensiveness is a natural protective mechanism, but that doesn’t mean you have to express it out loud. Be aware of your thoughts of self-righteousness and consciously encourage them to drift away. Return to your focus on care and respect for the person(s) in front of you.
Honesty is essential, but delivering it with brutality is unacceptable. You can learn to stay calm and deliver your messages and feedback with respect and care, becoming a model for others in your organization to follow.
Hey! While your pondering the mountain of Monday morning work that’s staring you in the face, why not take a break and head on over to this month’s Leadership Development Carnival at Great Leadership? A little bit of procrastination to read a few good posts is recommended if it feeds your brain!
By Jennifer Kahnweiler, Ph.D.
Incorporating some of these steps into your leadership can definitely increase your chances of success and sustainability whether you are an extrovert or an introvert. Take a look at the new book by this author, Quiet Influence: The Introvert’s Guide to Making a Difference (Berrett-Koehler, April 2013); I find myself pumping my fist and saying “yes!” out loud as I read, knowing that the wisdom in it is good for all leaders, not just Introverts.
Walking into the research institute’s cafeteria to grab some lunch I noticed it immediately. Something was different. Where was the hustle and bustle of a typical noontime lunch rush? Instead I saw people sitting alone, eating, reading and simply starring into space. The atmosphere was so calm. These scientists and engineers develop innovative products and breakthrough ideas. I call them “quiet influencers,” those who make a difference by challenging the status quo, provoking new ways of thinking, effecting change and inspiring others to move forward.
Quiet influencers like these professionals begin their influencing journey where they think and recharge best: in quiet. They frequently return there. And it is not just brilliant scientists who tap into this reservoir to make things happen. The rest of us can benefit greatly from a needed pause in our hectic lives. Here are five key ways in which taking quiet time contributes to significantly increase our ability to influence others.
1. Unleash your creativity
Quiet time allows innovative ideas to percolate and emerge. You probably have experienced the answer to a problem showing up in the shower or while you are driving, not consciously trying to seek the solution. Executive coach Vinay Kumar said that most of his writings emerge from deep within when he is jogging. The best ideas often emerge in the depths of solitude.
2. Sustain your energy
Quiet time allows you to step away from an active schedule or work environment so you can re-enter the scene with renewed vigor. I know many quiet influencers who manage their “reserves” at professional conferences by building in scheduled breaks. Richard, a software executive, withdraws for rest breaks after intensive training sessions. Research supports this idea. In referring to daytime naps, Tony Schwartz wrote in “The New York Times,” “When night shift air traffic controllers were given 40 minutes to nap — and slept an average of 19 minutes — they performed much better on tests that measured vigilance and reaction time.”
3. Better understand yourself and others
Quiet time allows you to better understand yourself and others by getting clear about your own motivations, goals and values before you step into a situation. A CEO of a media company shared that he often has his “breakthroughs” on his daily 15-minute walk from the bus stop to his office. He considers how invested he is in an issue and how much he wants to either promote his own idea or let the team’s solutions naturally emerge.
4. Maintain focus
Quiet time, even a few concentrated minutes can sharpen your focus and help you to mentally prepare for influencing situations and outcomes. Hockey fans are familiar with the pre-game locker room shot. Respected NBC play-by-play, NFL Hockey announcer “Doc” Emrick told me you typically see the goalie sitting alone, deep within himself. He knows the strengths and weaknesses of each player and visualizes multiple potential encounters with the opposing team, taking this quiet time to literally play out the game in his mind. In a similar fashion, quiet influencers use breaks to shape successful outcomes by imagining a successful upcoming sales pitch or coaching discussion.
5. Keep it fresh
A caveat: An overreliance on taking quiet time can become counterproductive. Like a battery which derives little benefit from overcharging, staying in your head too much can lead to recycling of the same thoughts and even a depletion of energy. Also, while taking quiet time helps you to generate ideas, you can generate too many ideas without acting on them. Finally, you miss needed outside insights. Jake, a program manager, told me that a project plan he thought was a clear winner — in his head — turned out not to be after he ran it by his stakeholders.
Small steps here can make a big difference. Follow the quiet influencer’s lead and take a nice long walk, turn off your smart phone and even eat lunch alone once in a while. Then sit back and watch as your efforts to influence take shape.
Jennifer B. Kahnweiler, Ph.D. is an international speaker and executive coach whose clients include General Electric Co., AT&T Inc., the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and NASA. Her first book, The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength (Berrett-Koehler, June 2009), has sold more than 20,000 copies and has been translated into multiple languages. Her latest book, Quiet Influence: The Introvert’s Guide to Making a Difference (Berrett-Koehler, April 2013), shows how introverts can harness their innate tendencies to make a real difference. Kahnweiler is a Board Certified Coach, holds the Certified Speaking Professional designation awarded by the National Speakers Association and is actively involved in the Global Speakers Association. For more information visit www.jenniferkahnweiler.com and follow her on Twitter @jennkahnweiler.
The following is a reprise of a post from last year’s Memorial Day. I can’t think of better way to use this space than to remember family who’ve sacrificed for the sake of our country.
As I think about Memorial Day, I contemplated the connection with family members who’ve been in the military. Like you, I’ve been touched by everyday leaders in my family and in my extended network who’ve spent time in the service. Although my own direct connections to the military didn’t endure combat, they gave years of their lives in service to our country nonetheless. I wanted to honor Christopher Boomgaard and Harold Asmus on this day.
Christopher J. Boomgaard (Chris) was in the Navy at the time between important wars like Viet Nam and the Gulf. He spent several years abroad on a ship somewhere that he couldn’t tell us about. He didn’t participate in combat, but he was one of thousands of dedicated people in the military.
Chris was a first born son who put a name to the initial-name of his father, C. J. Chris’ mother JoAnne insisted that he had a genius I.Q., but that might have been just wishful thinking (I knew him, after all, and just thought of him as smart). JoAnne struggled with a decision to push him ahead a grade or more or to leave him at the appropriate grade level for his age, because she feared that if he advanced ahead it might harm him emotionally.
In the end, JoAnne decided to leave him with his age group. Chris was bored and restless, leaving home at fifteen to hitchhike to Big Sur. It was the place to be in the late 60′s, where hippies and war protestors hung out, complained about the government and didn’t do much else. He found some relatives in California, and lived with them while going to college. He returned home with hair down to his shoulders and a girlfriend who wore fake leopard skin shirts and very short shorts. She didn’t fit in with Chris’ family, so C.J. and JoAnne bought her a one-way flight back to California. Chris didn’t seem too upset about that.
Not long afterwards, Chris enlisted in the Navy. After serving several years in the service, he got a good job, married his high school sweetheart and had a daughter. At thirty eight years old, he developed both acute leukemia and lung cancer at the same time, and fought the illnesses bravely to the end. Both diseases were known for fatal outcomes, but he kept insisting he would survive. He remained cheerful and continued to work until a few days before he died at home at the age of thirty nine while his child was away at summer camp.
Chris was my big brother. I miss him and think of him on most days.
Chris’ life wasn’t particularly notable. In his lifetime, he did a lot of things that were good, and a few that weren’t like most of us. He was a leader in his own way, especially when it came to his upbeat attitude about the illnesses that would eventually take his life.
I couldn’t find anything on the internet about him. I think that’s sad, and on this day, I wanted to make that right. He was my brother after all, and a veteran. Even though he lived a rather quiet life, he deserves his place here on this day when we remember our veterans.
My daughter Briana wrote this poem about her Grandfather, based on a story he told her of his time in the army. His name is Harold Asmus, and he is a veteran of WWII, spending part of his enlisted time on Christmas Island at a weather station. Today, he volunteers at military funerals as part of the honor guard in his home town, and still looks handsome in uniform.
He drew from his pocket
a delicate puzzle,
five tiny pieces
hung by a string
worn like a medal
from an unknown realm.
His eyes lost their clouds
as he put it together.
What really happened on Christmas Island?
Tying land crabs
to weather balloons,
the smell of the station
in late October
in the flashes of fire and settling of dust –
he disassembles it
like a gun,
piece by piece.
Pieces, like limbs,
scattered by mines,
his hands shed their years
like flags in the wind,
his eyes wear their pride,
as the smoke
ascends to the sky.
On this day, we are grateful to all of the military men and women who’ve sacrificed in death, disablement, and life for our country. Please thank and honor a veteran.
How unfortunate that our popular ideas of what a good leader should be are so often grandiose. Through current media, television, and movies, we expect perfection; a leader is strong, fearless and flawless. If we believe that myth, they should be superheroes, royalty and saviors all rolled into one.
So we become disappointed when our leaders are only human after all. Could it be that we expect too much? If you consider some recent examples of leaders who’ve fallen from grace, you might find that they made very human mistakes; the kind we all make. That isn’t an excuse for bad behaviors; it’s simply a reality that nobody is perfect.
In the end, the best leaders are very human. Like most of us, they don’t see themselves in some grandiose, bigger than life way. They know that it’s the little things that will make a difference in their leadership, and they work on getting better at them every day.
The little things might, at first glance, seem simple, but they aren’t easy. A few that come to mind:
Putting others first: Servant leadership – serving others – isn’t a new idea, but it is something whose time has come and the best leaders strive for. When tough decisions need to be made, the best leaders always consider the impact on others before thinking of themselves. When temptation calls, good leaders, like good human beings, call on their internal strengths and ask themselves what the impact of following their whims might be on others, and then they decide their impulse isn’t worth it.
Saying thank you: “Thank you” is a very small phrase, but when said with sincerity it can mean a lot. Surprisingly, it’s a big motivator for people, too, as it acknowledges a job well done, implicitly asking the recipient to continue on course. There can never be enough heartfelt thank you’s in our organizations, and the best leaders know that, striving to make sure it’s part of their everyday conversations.
Appreciating people: It’s all too easy to get caught up in what someone is doing wrong, or what they could do more of. The best leaders are always aware of what people do well, and are present to what they are capable of, while seeing the potential they have within them to do more in the future.
Taking the high road: When silly disagreements arise or when gossip abounds, the best leaders take the high road and choose to go their own way without getting caught up in the seduction of joining in. Although they may be displeased with a particular stance their organization is taking on something, they don’t complain or broadcast their displeasure. Instead, they quietly find a way to deal with it.
Being kind: People have all kinds of things going on in their lives. They have bad things happen, and there is emotional pain that can play itself out in ways that aren’t pretty. Truly strong leaders find a way to be kind even when others aren’t. They don’t fall into the trap of treating others poorly because they are experiencing poor treatment; they know a kind word is their best defense.
Staying calm: Our organizations are pressure cookers of stress. The best leaders stay calm despite what’s going on around them. When it becomes easy to yell, scream, or demand, they can put the stressful situation into perspective and see that going ballistic isn’t worth it. They know they are models of the kind of demeanor they want to see in their organizations. They model calm demeanor for all to follow.
Listening: Listening is a small thing with big impact. When a leader puts down their cell phone and turns to look the person they’re speaking to in the eye without distractions, they’ve created a powerful connection that’s all too rare in our fast paced world. These powerful connections are what make leadership possible.
Brave, courageous, bigger than life leaders are fascinating. But it’s the small every day acts that make a leader great.
Reprinted with permission from SmartBlog on Leadership
Today is the start of International Coaching week. This is the week designated by the International Coach Federation for professional coaches worldwide to host events that promote the proven power of coaching. This post is my own tribute to the week, a shameless promotion of the profession I joined more than a decade ago.
When I first started coaching, there were times that I would cringe at the promotion of my profession. At that time, a few well-known coaches had promoted our work as something mythical, magical, a cure for everything and a way to BECOME AN OVERNIGHT BILLIONAIRE! (yikes).
I’m here to tell you that getting coached isn’t any of those things, and it isn’t always easy. A professional coach will help you to uncover your strengths and expose your weaknesses. When you are coached you do the heavy lifting with your coach as a guide. Being coached can be some of the hardest work you’ll do, requiring a lot of courage, humility, and vulnerability.
I know you’re successful. So why bother?
Even the best leaders have untapped potential, room to grow, things to get better at. Take a look at your last 360 or ask your manager and some of the people you work with what they think your opportunities for improvement are (if they haven’t already told you), and you have a start toward learning about what developmental opportunities exist for you. This just might be the time to hire a coach.
How do you know if you’re ready to work with a coach? It might be the time when:
You’re willing to take responsibility for what you can do, within the complex system you’re a part of, to make a difference. Don’t hire a coach if you just want someone to vent to (although small amounts of venting are okay). Hire a coach when you’re ready to change yourself, and therefore change the world around you (remember the popular slogan “Be the change you want to see in the world”?). If you’re driven to be the best, coaching can help.
You’re prepared to take a hard look at yourself through your own eyes and the eyes of others. This requires deep humility and a willingness to accept what others see even if you don’t agree with it. When you have an executive coach, you’ll be assessed in a number of different ways. Feedback obtained from your stakeholders is sometimes hard to hear, but you must hear it, take it to heart, and decide if there is anything you want to do about it. A coach will help you to filter the feedback and focus on what’s really important for you to move forward.
You’re ready – and able – to do the work on yourself to close the gap between where you are and where you want to be. I know that sounds a little woo-woo, but we’re talking about that untapped potential in you. The best results will come when you’re willing to be courageous and step out of your comfort zone to try new things. You also have to be able to make regular meetings with your coach, but more importantly, you’ll have fieldwork to do between meetings too. Expect coaching to take up some of your precious time, but if you “do the work”, it will be well worth it.
Once you’re ready to take that step, see your HR or Talent Management professional or ask your colleagues for a referral. If you work hard, you will realize some of the benefits of making the investment in working with a professional coach.
I had the privilege of speaking to a seasoned leaders’ stakeholders recently in an effort to get their candid feedback about him. I was captivated by how many indicated that they appreciated his “open door”. As I listened to their stories and their feedback, I found they weren’t just referring to that thing that hangs on the wall between his office and whatever is outside of it.
Leaders who have an open door focus on having the kind of dialog and relationships with others that make people comfortable in their presence. They recognize that they are responsible for setting the tone. Not only is the door to their office open, they also have an:
Open heart with which to welcome and understand others. This means that conversations are easy and flowing, with the leader’s attention placed on others and an attitude of “Lets see what I can learn from this person” and “How might I understand their point of view on a deeper level?”
Open mind that is curious and non-judgmental. An open mind encourages others to say exactly what they need to say, and to bring forward new, and sometimes crazy ideas that just might have a grain of reality and truth to them. Leaders with an open mind tend to know the things that are important for their success (or detract from it) because others are willing to tell them.
Open eyes that help them to see clearly. Leaders with open minds don’t deceive themselves about their value or their power. They can clearly see how they impact their organizations and are always aware of how their presence influences others or shuts them out.
Open ears with which to listen deeply. The leaders with open ears listen beyond the words that are said; they are alert to nuances, including what is not said. They notice when it’s time to surface hidden elephants and when the attempt to do so isn’t worth it.
Keeping your door open requires your full presence, eye contact, and body language that says “I’m here, and I’m listening to you”. Think about it. Do you need to make the effort to open your door wider?