I once worked for a senior executive that made a point of reminding our team that if the success of our business was completely dependent on his brain alone, we were in trouble. Now, this was not true, but it was his way of reminding us that he expected the team to be thinking, learning and solving just like he was and he expected us to share our point of view on department issues with him and the rest of the team. While he was most likely the smartest person in the room, he never played that card. Instead, he played the role of the most teachable person in the room, and it drove up our level of engagement.
Legendary NCAA Basketball coach John Wooten once said, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” It feels good to be in a room where people think you are the smartest one there. Unfortunately, when this happens the collective intelligence of the room goes down. When people expect you always to step up, so they naturally step back. What if you could lead in such a way as to have others step up so you could step back. This will increase the collective intelligence of the room and raise the level of employee engagement.
The Teachable Leader
Teachable leaders raise the level of engagement on their teams by inviting everyone on the team to contribute. You raise the level of relevance of each person by showing that even though you have a point of view, you welcome theirs.
Here are five tips for becoming and remaining teachable.
Celebrate the fact that you are not the smartest person in the room, even if you actually may be the smartest person in the room. Enter every room knowing that you can learn something from every person there. This will raise your level of authenticity which will attract others to you and your cause.
Increase your curiosity. Stop accepting that everything is as it appears. Become curious about how and why things work. Challenge the norms. Inquire about the details. Be interested in what others have to say.
Be receptive to new ideas. It is easy to be trapped in group-think and not be receptive to new ideas or the views of other people. Embrace diversity of thought and diversity of culture. Be receptive to the ideas and points of view that are different from your own.
Ask great questions. Stop talking about yourself, your views, and your opinions. No one cares. Instead, ask great questions of others. Take your curiosity (point 2) and ask meaningful questions to aid you in learning as much as you can in the time available. By the way, people love to answer questions about their views and opinions, so ask away!
Listen with the intent to understand. The greatest gift you can give to another person is to actively listen when they are speaking. A good listener will ask good questions that will lead to a full understanding of the points being made. Poor listeners listen with the sole intention of responding and moving the discussion back to themselves. Listen and learn.
Leadership author and speaker John C. Maxwell said, “Teachability is not so much about competence and mental capacity as it is about attitude. It is the desire to listen, learn, and apply. It is a hunger to discover and grow. It is the willingness to learn, unlearn, and relearn.” Take note of your attitude when it comes to listening, learning, discovering and growing.
Are you a teachable person?