Many leaders say they want diversity of thought but then they create a team culture that’s based on conformity of thought.
This is what happens when leaders lack team collaboration skills, and don’t know how to build one of the most important team culture characteristics: the ability to listen to feedback, no matter what direction it travels (up, down or sideways).
As soon as your employees or colleagues see that you can’t handle their input and you lack vulnerability in leadership, they understand that the team is not a safe place to share insights or ideas. They cut off your access to their diverse thoughts. The team and the organization suffers because a lack of diversity of thought means there’s little chance for innovation or for breaking out of the status quo.
But take heart: feedback listening is a skill you can develop. Realize that leadership and active listening are inseparable. It takes vulnerability to accept feedback, but vulnerability is powerful. Here are 4 steps to start listening to Feedback:
Listen to Feedback Step One: Hear It
What skills do you need to manage a team? The skill of being able to hear someone out without being dismissive or defensive is at the top of that list. If someone is offering you feedback, listen to them. You are not committing to agreeing with them. What you are doing is supporting their dignity as an individual, by listening to what they want to share. Whether they fall higher or lower than you in the organizational hierarchy, listen to feedback when it’s offered.
Listen to Feedback Step Two: Seek It
To build a team culture that supports diversity of thought, proactively seek out feedback. Seek out diverse thoughts and a variety of perspectives. Embrace the practice of active listening. Don’t just hear what’s already being said. Seek out more voices. Seek different voices. Seek new voices. This will add diversity of thought to your team culture characteristics, because people will see evidence that it’s not just safe but also welcome for them to share their own ideas, opinions and perspectives.
Listen to Feedback Step Three: Assess It
Don’t dismiss feedback right away. Give it some thought. Otherwise, you really aren’t a leader who embraces diversity of thought if your first reaction is to dismiss any thought that contradicts yours. Consider it. Assess it. Run it by someone else if that’s helpful. In fact, if your goal is to build a team culture of diversity of thought, then the act of listening to feedback and then sharing it with others in order to gain even more feedback, is a great way to get there. It’s a good way to practice leadership and active listening.
Listen to Feedback Step Four: Act On It
This doesn’t mean you have to agree with it and accept whatever action the person is recommending. You can act on it by taking the suggestion. You can act on it by thanking the individual and explaining why you appreciate the insight but don’t agree. Or you can act on it by thanking the individual and leaving it at that. Vulnerability in leadership doesn’t mean you have to do what someone else says. But good team collaboration skills include the ability to acknowledge and thank the person who has taken a risk in sharing their feedback with you.
Leaders who want to create a team culture around diversity of thought must first listen to feedback. They need to hear it, seek it out, and assess it before taking any action. Only by doing this can they ensure that everyone on the team feels comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas, which is essential for innovation and growth.
Have you tried incorporating these steps into your leadership style? Take our free leadership assessment to find out how you can improve in this area.