You’ve seen it before: the boss invites feedback and an ‘open dialogue’ and as soon as someone shows individuality or is overly assertive or says they don’t like an idea, then that person is labelled ‘not a team player’, or a ‘problem’, and the boss retreats to her/his predetermined position on just about everything that she or he regards as important. ‘The Precious’ idea, feeling or attitude has taken over!
You can’t afford to be precious about your ideas, your leadership and your organisation or life. I’ve had the privilege of working with clients who have literally stood in the middle of the office and announced to their staff, “Peter is going to help me to be a better leader and person”. This courageous and open approach to their development has meant that those around them were willing to appreciate and support changes and to bear with mistakes and failures – a courtesy that the leaders extended to their own people. These individuals were also far more likely to make dramatic changes in their leadership and personhood and obtained phenomenally better results from their people and divisions – in comparison either to other leaders, or to their own histories.
I’ve recently had a client who instantly instituted a communication intervention that I had suggested, which had tremendous results in the most important area of his life – his home. It was his immediate willingness to try the idea that bore him and his family fruit.
In contrast, I have encountered many who will be precious about their performance, their professional level of expertise (and supposed superiority), and/or their leadership. One recent example I witnessed from afar was a leader complaining that someone coming to them was ‘too aggressive’, because she had the gall to enter the boss’s office and request that there be some confirmation regarding her position, which has been in the balance for months. It took another subordinate explaining the situation for the boss to get over being so precious about being questioned in the office. (Personally, I’d be thrilled with my people being direct enough to come talk with me.)
On a higher level of complexity, I have witnessed Managing Directors react preciously to feedback and strategic directives from others, believing that they had the upper hand on the direction of their company, dismissing the suggestions and concerns of others. Their lack of responsiveness – a lack of appropriate humility and wisdom in considering others’ insights – directly contributed to the decline of those companies, sometimes falling down within mere months.
You can almost hear them on that subliminal level: “It’s mine! My precious! Give it to me!” Overcoming that voice, however, is essential to high performance in any arena.
On a Personal Level…
Here’s a very personal way that this principle has worked out in my life: When my wife and I confirmed that our daughter Alyssa had cerebral palsy it was not time to be precious. She was just seven months old. We couldn’t stand on our hands and declare that we had all wisdom, insight and ability to deal with her disability and help her to grow. We couldn’t wait for the perfect plan. We couldn’t wait for the right resources. We couldn’t wait for the perfect financial position to begin working with her. We had to act immediately.
Now, you cannot get more personal than family. But my wife and I were smart enough to know that we didn’t know enough, nor did we have the capacity to ‘do this alone’. And so we sought out help and assistance from every avenue we could. We gratefully accepted insights and suggestions from every quarter. Even if some of it was plain wrong, it was our responsibility to take ideas, information and resources and fit them into the overall picture and plan with Alyssa.
Over the years, we’ve incorporated the concerned and professional input of hundreds of individuals into Alyssa’s life. Throughout, we have had the core support of The Centre for Cerebral Palsy in WA. We have worked with medical personnel and therapists. We have had carers come into our home and take over the chores and other duties for us, in order to give us a break and help lead us lead our family. We have worked with technicians and support personnel. We accepted the help of family and friends. We have taken on thousands of suggestions, worked with too many organisations to mention here and incorporated the work and efforts of so many into Alyssa’s care and development. It has borne fruit. If you’ve read through my blog before, you know something of Alyssa’s achievements just this year. But it wouldn’t have happened if we’d been precious about how we take care of our daughter.
Our priority has always been what is in her best interests, no matter how hard it has been. Unfortunately, the examples are overwhelming of how people let their own personal ego get in the way of what is in the best interests of the goals for their business, organisation, cause or family.
Where You Are Now…
Translate that approach to what concerns you now. You have to learn to not be precious about your ideas, initiatives and innovations. You have to be mature about your achievements, your management and your leadership. You need to keep asking yourself how you can do better.
Here are 10 Questions to which you can respond, in order to lower your ‘Precious Quotient':
- Are you seeking the assistance you can?
- Are you checking your ego at the door?
- Are you being defensive or considered about your choices?
- Are you deflecting responsibility?
- Are you being open to a new strategy or direction?
- Are you allowing your beliefs to be tested and proven?
- Are you prudently investing your endeavour’s finances in new ventures and directions, or are you either hoarding or being profligate?
- Are you using your resources (time, energy, skills, intellect, equipment, finances) to assist or work with others, or are you preciously keeping it all to yourself?
- Are you focusing on achieving the greater goal, or on placating your own feelings?
- Are you being principled, or being precious?
Let people influence you. Be open on processes, even while you’re firm on principles. Don’t think of yourself as the fount of all wisdom and jealously guard your position. Don’t Be Precious!
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© 2014 Peter J. McLean. Visit http://theleadershiplamplight.com for more blog posts, or visit www.lamplighter.com.au for more about our Consulting, Coaching, Speaking and Developmental Experiences. Or Contact Me to discuss your needs!