MY BUSINESS PARTNER AND I COME FROM DIFFERENT BACKGROUNDS AND THAT HELPS WHEN WE MAKE BUSINESS DECISIONS. WE CHALLENGE ONE ANOTHER CONSTANTLY BY STIMULATING NEW THOUGHT AND DEBATE AND OUR BEST WORK IS WHEN WE HAVE BOTH CONTRIBUTED TO THE PROCESS, WHICH ALWAYS CREATES SOMETHING BETTER THAN EITHER OF US COULD DO ALONE.
When it comes to running a business, nothing is more important than diversity of thought. No matter how good a leader you think you are, it is the team you assemble who will determine success. We might have to make the decisions, but we do not have all the answers, which is why it is important that we listen to the team around us. If you can create a working environment where people feel empowered to air their views and it is safe to have different opinions, then the outcome will be so much more. The best solutions always go through several iterations, each building on the last. It is also why all businesses should bring in outside expertise from time to time, because we all tend to stand too close to our own businesses and can benefit from an objective perspective.
Taking onboard views that differ widely from our own can be a challenge, but looking at a problem from every angle is the way to find the best solutions. That means being surrounded by people from different backgrounds, rather than hiring in our own image. That takes a conscious effort – we have all heard of unconscious bias – so self-awareness is key. No matter your position, even if you oversee a huge global enterprise, like Elon Musk at Tesla, never think it is all about you. The best senior managers are those who realise they might not be doing everything right. Good managers should always be prepared to change their minds when presented with views that differ from their own. That is why the most important skill for successful leaders is the ability to listen. Listen to what your employees have to say, listen to your customers and take advice. It’s not about acting on every single thing, but listen – and listen well – before making that call.
Trying to force people into your own mould never works, embracing them as they are and seeking the value they can bring, will. That can be difficult, as some team members can struggle to engage in a way you understand. They are the ones that require extra investment of time and even greater effort to listen to, because only by accepting that everyone can be part of the team will you have a truly inclusive organisation. Fail to demonstrate genuine inclusiveness and some people will literally turn off and the business stands to lose an opinion or thought that could really matter. Some managers find it hard to empower the individuals in their team and that is understandable, because few are given the training they need to take on a management position, with most being promoted simply because they excelled in the role they were already in. Without being told otherwise, it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that with power comes responsibility and with responsibility comes the need to make all decisions alone. But if team members feel they understand the organisation’s vision and their role within it – and that they have the autonomy and opportunity to contribute and make a difference – it unlocks so much more potential. It’s taken as read that if everyone is pulling in the same direction, the collective effort is consistently more effective, because the power of the team is far greater than that of the individual. The most successful sports teams are not those with the best individuals, but those with a clear, unified vision and great team spirit, who pull together and support one another.
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