As good leaders it is paramount that we solicit others for wisdom, advice, or opinions as we make decisions for our teams, families, or organizations. I have recently talked about how we must be careful who we are listening to. We all have many people giving us thoughts and opinions, but for me, I may listen to all of them, but there are very few whom I reach out to for real mentorship. Everyone has an opinion and is willing to share it these days, but whom are you listening to.
The next step in that process is what are you doing with their thoughts, mentorship, and wisdom they may provide? We often get in our “trenches”, and continue to move forward “as is”, and trudging forward with the status quo, with no change made. As you open yourself up for advice, it takes a humble heart and mind to listen, and it then takes focused intention to act on it. One thing that happens routinely, especially for me in years past, my humility would allow me to listen, but my ego and arrogance wouldn’t allow me to act on it. We often solicit others for advice and ideas, but what happens, if they conflict with our own thought process when they aren’t comfortable acting on those ideas.
None of us are immune to this type of error, and there’s a great anecdote about this in the book “The Gray Rhino: How to Recognize and Act on the Obvious Dangers We ignore”. In January 1986 we can recall the launch and subsequent explosion of the Challenger space shuttle. Many of us recall watching this from our grade school classroom. 7 astronauts died, including schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe. Six months earlier, Roger Boisjoly, an engineer at Morton Thiokol, the manufacturer of rocket boosters for the shuttle program, warned of “a catastrophe of the highest order” in a memo to his superiors. “We all knew if the seals failed, the shuttle would blow up,” Boisjoly told a journalist. NASA didn’t want to delay the launch and chose to move forward anyway. Very sadly, the rest is history.
When you solicit thoughts, ideas, or opinions on objectives, strategy, or simply should we do a particular task, are you listening? Are you then taking action? There are people around us with extreme wisdom, with a “window” looking from the outside in and different perspective, that can help us succeed or even help us avoid catastrophic failure. We routinely talk about kids not listening or doing the right thing when advice is given, but are you? The stopping point for me and likely for you is if the idea or advice conflicts with our own thought process, we aren’t comfortable acting on it, and that is the end of that discussion. The good news is, we typically aren’t deciding on the launch of a space shuttle. The bad news is, as leaders, parents, teachers, coaches, etc, we are deciding on the hearts and minds of those around us each day, and if we aren’t listening and acting when there is unknown danger we are unaware of, while someone else does and is trying to make us aware of the danger, we create our own “Challenger” challenges and failure.
The same can be said currently of the Coronavirus. One single doctor sent out a “warning”, but no one listened….
What is your unknown “Challenger” right now!?