[Please excuse any typing errors as this is a direct transcription for your benefit.]
Hello, this is Ruth Sanderson from Blue Pea POD. In this podcast, I want to talk about mental agility, specifically, being open-minded. Being open-minded is one of the common responses that come up when I ask leaders about the key attitudes they think leaders should have.
We like to believe we are open-minded, and it’s highly probable that we think we’re actually more open-minded than we are in actual truth are!
I say this because we’re a collection of habits, patterns, repetitions. For example, the commute to work each day quickly becomes routine, and we stop observing everything. Consider your last seven breakfasts. How different and varied were they? When we food shop we’re deciding what we’ll eat. Maybe on a Saturday, we go, “Let’s try something new for a change.” I wonder how you prepare this strange looking fruit or vegetable.
We often make decisions based on familiar data. Now for some simple or low-risk decisions, that’s absolutely fine, but without awareness, we make larger, or more complex decisions still relying on our favorite routes. We don’t always stop, think, search for new sources of data or analyze other options.
For example, when I have an HR decision, I might rely on discussing it with Julie, an expert in that field. I know Julie, we get on really well. However, is that enough to remain open-minded to other options? What other avenues have I explored? How open am I too new or different, or conflict, or disagreement?
This is possible. I know Julie. We get on really well. I go to her because I think I know the answer I’m going to get whereas if I went to somebody else I may get that different, that conflict, that disagreement.
Now because I can argue that in the name of speed and cost, my approach is sufficient. It may well be, but it isn’t necessarily me demonstrating an attitude or receptivity to being open-minded or practicing mental agility.
I know a company making cost savings who decided to cut their training budget. It was announced as all unnecessary expenditure must be stopped. They haven’t tracked the return on investment for their training budget and neither did they explore other options of developing their staff.
Training and development equaled unnecessary expense, that’s it. Now a year down the line some staff left including a couple of key people, and they were struggling to replace them. They left because they weren’t growing in their role, or they were expected to grow just without any guidance or support. Somehow they were expected to know stuff and be able to apply it.
Now aside from people leaving, staff engagement was also down in the annual survey. They cited reasons such as a lack of support to do their role and increasing blame culture and no clear development opportunities.
Now, fortunately, somebody new came in and looked at what was going on. They realized that learning and development were important and whilst they didn’t have lots of money to invest, they were open-minded to explore new routes to creating learning and development opportunities. The pressure on us to make good decisions quickly can cause us to focus on one goal at the blind expense of another. We don’t necessarily see all the links, consequences, and impact until too late.
What Am I Missing?
Ask yourself, have I considered this from all angles, not just my preferred angles? Some of us are very task focused, others people focused. Some of us do both. Have I considered the impact of this choice on the customer, the product, or service, the infrastructure, the employees, the market and competition, future trends, company culture? As you know, that’s not an exhaustive list, but it stops you falling into ruts. If you use it a checklist, then too, basically at some point it is going to become a rut.
A few other questions you can ask yourself is, what’s new here? What am I missing? What am I ignoring? The useful questions that keep us open-minded and of course, you have to stay tuned for the answers and not just shut down if they’re not what you wanted to hear.
Being brutally honest with yourself is a trait authentic leaders hone. It allows you to more fully own who you are and embody what you stand for. If you use the words role model or inspire in your vocabulary about leadership, then increasing your mental agility is crucial for you. Until the next time, I wish you authentic success.
About blue pea POD
Time is a precious commodity, and you don’t want to waste it or any other resources trialing various programmes to see what might have content and insights that work for you. Leadership can feel like a lonely role especially in times of high change and uncertainty, and it’s good to have a sounding board and someone with experience of leadership and business.
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