June 2016 Management Toolbox
4 Ways to Become More Open-Minded
Open-mindedness is one of the greatest leadership traits you can possess. It means you are receptive to other people’s thoughts and ideas, that you are willing to look at a situation from all angles and perspectives in order to make decisions that best serve the company and its stakeholders. Managers who maintain an open mind also tend to have strong relationships with their colleagues because they approach their work with an attitude of flexibility, thoughtfulness, humility and objectivity. And yet, keeping an open mind is not always easy; like many other skills, it must be honed. Below are four actions that you can regularly engage in to keep your mind open to new ideas and different viewpoints.
1. Talk less and listen more. This is perhaps the best way to learn new information and better understand other perspectives. None of us learns much if we are always the ones doing the talking. So, the next time you are engaged in a conversation with someone, be present in the moment and listen without distraction. Make eye contact, ignore your electronics, and point your feet in the direction of the person who is speaking (that may sound strange, but it works). Simply focus on the other person and the information they are sharing.
2. Ask questions and gather facts. As a manager, you need to know as much as possible to make smart decisions that positively impact your team and the company as a whole. The best way to learn more about a particular topic is to find people who are subject matter experts, ask them questions and listen closely to their answers. It’s possible you may make great decisions all on your own, but interacting with other, knowledgeable people does more than potentially improve your decision-making capabilities; it usually teaches you something you wouldn’t otherwise have learned, plus it expands your professional network.
3. Never stop reading. Face-to-face, phone and email conversations are critical to keeping an open mind, and so is reading. To stay abreast of what is currently going on in your industry and in the world – and what is projected to happen in the future – you must read industry publications, newspapers and any other related content you can access. The data you absorb from these materials will expand your horizons and lead to more informed decision-making down the road.
4. Solicit feedback. How do you know how you’re doing in your management role? How does your company know how its clients and customers feel? Part of being open-minded is checking to see if there is some room for improvement or to do things differently. Survey your employees to see what they are thinking about, and meet with them individually on a regular basis to gain their insights. If your company doesn’t already solicit customer feedback, encourage them to do so and ask to personally review the input that affects your department. If you don’t ask for and listen to stakeholder feedback, you many never hear about that innovative new safety idea or understand how your behavior is impacting your team.
How to Break Bad News to Employees
As a manager in your organization, part of your role is delivering bad news when necessary. Whether you find yourself having to terminate an employee or sitting down with your team to let them know they weren’t able to secure a big contract, this part of the job is never easy. So, how do you handle these tough conversations? There’s no exact science, but following are some guidelines that will help you communicate directly and with compassion.
Before you even begin a difficult conversation, it’s important that you have all the facts about the situation. For instance, let’s say one of your employees applied for a supervisory position but didn’t get it. Make sure you understand all the reasons why he wasn’t selected for the job. If human resources or another department was involved in making the decision, have as many conversations with them as you need to in order to get the details straight.
Next, take time to think about how you want to deliver your message. You will want to be clear yet sensitive to the other person’s feelings. It may be helpful to practice difficult conversations with someone you trust. That individual can give you feedback on your choice of words, tone of voice and body language.
When you’re ready to speak to the other party, set up a meeting time in a private setting. If you absolutely can’t schedule an in-person meeting, set up a video conference instead. Phone and email conversations are not ideal when breaking bad news. Once the meeting has started, don’t delay getting to the point. Say what needs to be said in a thoughtful, caring manner that leaves no room for confusion. Explain all the facts of the situation. For example, if your team wasn’t able to secure that big contract, describe all the reasons that factored into the loss. Or, if your employee was passed over for the supervisory position, explain exactly how that decision was made.
Once you’ve shared your news, ask the other party for his or her reaction. During this time, it is important that you are fully present, listen to the individual’s concerns, and demonstrate empathy and understanding. Depending on the news you’ve just delivered, your employee may have a range of emotions and will want to feel validated.
Finally, discuss next steps. If your employee got turned down for a promotion, give him suggestions about what he can work on so he has a better chance of being promoted in the future. Or, if your team wasn’t awarded the major contract they wanted, talk about what can be done differently in the future to give them a greater chance of securing other big jobs.