It’s Not a Fair Fight If You’re the CEO By...
The first example is from something I teach called feed forward. Where you learn to ask for input, listen, don’t respond and just thank people. I’ll never forget one class. One of the gentlemen in it said, “I listened better in this exercise than I’ve almost ever listened in my life.” I asked him why. He said, “Normally when others speak, I’m so busy composing my next comment to prove how smart I am, I’m not listening, I’m composing. Now the irony; he had a Nobel prize. A scientist with a Nobel prize in a management class trying to prove he’s smart. I said, “Look, you’ve got one Nobel prize, it’s okay. Declare victory here.” But it just goes back to your point that pervasive need, that fear of people may think I’m stupid, plays out in so many dysfunctional ways.
Another example is about leaders when they don’t know what they’re talking about. My friend Alan Mulally, former CEO of Ford and Boeing taught me a great lesson, “If you don’t know what you’re talking about as a leader; shut up. Don’t sit there and make ideas.” One of my other good clients, J.P. Gardener said as a leader, “My suggestions become orders.” Well as a CEO what Alan taught me is, when people look at you and say, “I’m lost, I’m confused, I don’t have the answer,” fight that urge to say, “Have you thought of…?” Because as soon as you’re the CEO, they salute the flag and do it. And a lot of that is your own insecurity about looking stupid.
My friend Alan has the discipline to breathe and to say, “You know what? You don’t know the answer, it’s okay. I don’t either. Why don’t we find someone that knows what they’re doing and solve the problem?”
Once we get over our fear of others may think we’re stupid, life is a lot better for everybody.
On June 20th, I was honored to be inducted into the Thinkers 50 Hall of Fame – whose members include the top management thinkers of our time.