Fostering an open environment where people feel free to express their perspectives is one of the most important things that you can do as a leader.
While it’s common for people to have different ideas on how to arrive at a shared goal, many often do not feel comfortable sharing their thoughts in meetings or in an open setting. The trouble is, when they don’t offer their ideas openly, they will inevitably share them with others elsewhere.
This is unfortunate and unfair to the team members, because they may feel that their perspectives don’t matter enough to others to be heard. And, it’s detrimental to the organization, because their ideas may have yielded tremendous benefit.
When people aren’t made to feel comfortable to discuss matters, decisions also have less chance to succeed. In this scenario, they are not as invested in the outcome as they would have been if they took part in the relevant discussions, or at least if they felt that they could.
So how can we nurture the seeds of an environment in which ideas flow and are exchanged freely? While I do encourage my team members to share in meetings on the spot, a leader’s success in drawing out thoughts has more to do with how they show respect for their colleagues’ perspectives over time. It’s about building trust through many interactions and experiences, so that when the time comes, they’ll feel valued for speaking their mind. This requires steadiness and above all sincerity on the part of the leader.
We owe it to our colleagues to do this, and we owe it to our organizations, because the next great idea could come from any of us, as long as we feel empowered to share it.