Great Leaders Aren’t Threatened by Their Employees’ Ideas or Feedback
This Business Insider article caught my eye the other day:
I've eaten at a José Andrés tapas restaurant in Las Vegas before. So I was really happy to read a bit about his views on leadership.
“When you just make sure that the opinion of everybody counts, [creativity] is just a natural process. Everybody is not afraid of opening their mind up because any idea may be a great idea. Any idea even that may sound very absurd, it is good that you create an environment that everybody will be at ease sharing ideas, and it doesn't matter how crazy they may be or how absurd they may be.”
Great leaders create an environment where people feel safe to speak up. We see this in the “Kaizen culture” (a culture of continuous improvement). Employees aren't afraid of being mocked for having a “bad idea” or an idea that doesn't work out in practice. Even a “bad idea” can be the starting point for a better idea.
As the owner of the business and a leader, Andrés sets the tone that says he's not always right:
“So me, I try to throw very absurd ideas, and what I love is when somebody challenges that, like, ‘Really? No way, José. This is not true. This is April Fools' Day.' But that's good because you create a very easy environment where everybody brings their best ideas forward. And that's what we do all the time.”
If the boss isn't afraid to be wrong, then employees won't be afraid. Trying new things means taking risks. It sounds like Andrés is following the Dr. Deming notion of eliminating fear in the workplace.
In Dr. John Toussaint's excellent book Management on the Mend, he writes about leaders not needing to have all of the answers.
If leaders are expected to have all of the answers, then leaders are also going to feel the need to be right all of the time.
As I blogged about, humility (as a key Toyota leadership trait) isn't exactly common or encouraged:
As Toussaint wrote, no one person has all of the answers:
His comments remind me of Sami Bahri, DDS, “The World's First Lean Dentist,” who, as a practice owner, engages his staff in identifying and solving problems. He took their input into redesigning the way his practice works. Listen to and watch my podcasts with him. Sami is a very humble leader, but that requires strength and confidence.
Toussaint continues, in his book:
“The idea might be difficult for some to accept, but in humility there is great freedom. We can stop pretending to know everything. We can walk through our hospitals without offering lectures.”
In the Business Insider article I linked to, there are examples of other leaders who don't mind being challenged, including Starbucks' CEO Howard Schultz and the famed scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson, who said:
“I've seen people with underlings who are always telling them they're great and I'm thinking, ‘If you're actually that great, what do you need people telling it to you for? And if you're not, then you're missing possible adjustments that can improve your ability to manage, make decisions, or solve problems,'” Tyson said. “As an academic, I like dissenting ideas, because out of them comes a deeper understanding of how things are or should be.”
I'd hope managers and executives would like dissenting ideas, instead of being threatened by them or labeling dissenting ideas as “resistance” that needs to be squashed.
What do you think?