Maybe the greatest moments in parenting are those threshold moments – the firsts: first smile, word, step, word read out loud, or first day of school. But those first adult thoughts are especially cool. Not just the unconscious brilliance of a four-year old, but the moments of self- and other-consciousness that happen before the teen years bring on defiant challenge. On Saturday, during one of those great car rides, with the distractions of TV and Blackberry gone, Jack started to tell me about what really rankles him. It really annoys him, he told me, when the adults in his life tell him “no” and won’t give him a reason. “I just don’t understand why they can’t give their reasons,” he said.
It made me think about when – if ever – authority is justified in answering the “why?” that all kids and followers ask, by saying “because I said so; that’s why.” I told him there may be times when his babysitter, or his teacher, or Jennifer or I are under so much time pressure that we won’t give a reason. Or, maybe his teacher or sitter can’t give an explanation at a moment in time, because there are hidden reasons: For example, they don’t want to embarrass someone else, or there is something in their personal needs that they just shouldn’t have to divulge. But Jack and I also agreed that followers lose respect for managers who can’t or won’t say why. Trust grows when management explains their reasons. And trust really grows when management – in explaining their reasons – actually listens to what you’re saying, sees your point of view and even changes course as a result. Those of us who have authority have work here: We have to cultivate patience to hear people out, and we have to cultivate open-mindedness to listen fully. Perhaps most of all, we have to develop the self-confidence to overcome our fear that those who challenge us may show us up, embarrass us, or stump us.
Shannon Deegan, Director of People Operations for Google, spoke at our Next Great Companies conference this past week. During the Q & A , a man pointed out that Google and the other renowned companies* at the conference had great cultures. He asked what is the central prescription Shannon would give for those Michigan companies who are not yet so enlightened. Shannon said: Focus on being transparent. The Google founders have a happy hour every Friday where all employees can attend – live or online – and anyone can ask anything of them. Employees get access to all the reports the chairman makes to the board. Anyone can ask any manager anything about the business strategy and decisions. Openness abounds.
So, guess what people feel like? The same thing Jack is striving for: They feel like respected adults.
At work and at home – leading your staff, your children, and your aging parents – you gain insight, trust and buy-in by being intellectually open,
Leading with your best self!