Today, I ask two questions, seeking your input — both to get you to engage in the question I’m asking (gosh that sounds pedantic), and so you can help us learn from a broad group about an important issue. I write RFL and teach students with one constant assumption: It’s not about whether you are a leader but about how you improve in the way you lead. At one end of the spectrum, nobody is perfect. And at the other end, I don’t anyone is incapable of improving, and almost no one doesn’t want to improve. So, in this sense, we’re all equal. We’re all able to get better, and hopefully all trying. My questions on which I seek your comment are two:
1. What is the most important thing supervisors, managers, parents, etc., can do to elevate the ability and willingness of others to not be defensive but to instead seek to learn new perspectives, accept new feedback, and challenge themselves to get better.
2. What works best for you to elevate your own ability to not be defensive but instead to take input, feedback, even criticism as something to make you better.
Feel free to click here and comment now. The results will be shared in next week’s RFL.
These two questions struck me yesterday reading the Sunday (New York) Times column by the Public Editor. Margaret Sullivan, the organization’s internal critic piqued my curiosity as she wrote this on her one year anniversary as watchdog:
“I’m often asked what I’ve learned about The Times from this unique perch. I’ve found it to be excellent but hardly flawless, and its flaws are stubborn ones. Its resources — a top-flight newsroom of more than 1,000 people — make its journalism indispensable, but that is often accompanied by self-satisfaction. Although The Times usually corrects factual errors quickly, it is not quick to admit that matters of tone or practice could be better, or that a decision should be reconsidered; when questioned, some of its journalists shift reflexively into a defensive crouch. [my italics]
“Maybe because they are highly intelligent and at the top of their profession, some Times staff members are more inclined to mount an elaborate argument than to accept the value of someone else’s point of view. That’s not everyone, of course. But it’s typical enough behavior that the opposite — openness and the desire to seek improvement — seems like the exception to the rule.”*
So, there’s intelligence, and there’s wisdom, Socratic ignorance. If it’s true at the Times, we’re in good company as we seek to increase others’ and our own receptivity to input. How do you answer the two questions? Share your wisdom, to help us all to
Lead with our best selves,
* So as not to take this journalist out of context, here are her balancing lines in the next paragraph:
“And yet, paradoxically, a spirit of collegiality and idealism often prevails. Although being public editor is no way to win a workplace popularity contest, I have found a remarkable level of cooperation, professionalism and even appreciation from Times staff members. In the big picture, they want The Times to be as good as it can be, and as good as its readers expect it to be.” Margaret Sullivan, “A Year in the Life of a Public Watchdog,” New York Times, August 31, 2013. Accessed at http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/01/opinion/sunday/a-year-in-the-life-of-a-watchdog.html?_r=0 on Monday 9/2/13.