In our business and personal lives, we tend to stick with those who think similarly to us; it makes us feel more comfortable and more supported in what we think and do. And that works to a point; you don’t want to constantly surround yourself with people who question your every thought. However, as an employer, take care not to simply surround yourself with “yes-men,” as it can stunt growth, both in the business and personally.
- Dare to disagree. Margaret Heffernan, entrepreneur, CEO and international business woman, has given a popular TED talk with this title, making the excellent point that those willing to deal with some conflict and listen to opposing opinions often end up with more creative business models because they’re willing to take in differing viewpoints and seeing things from all sides. Rather than avoiding conflict, she encourages us to embrace it, pointing out that the best research teams allow for significant disagreement in order to grow.
- Allow for adaptability. You have surely worked with someone who, when a project idea comes up in a meeting, invariably dismisses it, saying something to the effect of, “Oh, we tried that five years ago and it didn’t work,” unwilling to even discuss tweaking that idea for today’s situation. When employers or employees get so set in their ways they prefer to go in the same direction rather than entertain a new or daring idea that makes them a bit uncomfortable, they may miss out on an innovation.
- Embrace individuality. That person who always comes up with slightly off-the-wall ideas in meetings may get the eyerolls and under-the-breath sighs, but does anyone really listen to what they say? Could anyone take part of what he proposes and turn it into something new and exciting? We all have our quirks, and a team comes together best when they feel some sort of kinship outside of work, or at least a respect for each other. Consequently, encourage employees to speak their minds and not fear reprisal or shunning from fellow employees. We don’t let kids in school make the “weirdo” an outcast; nor should we do so as adults.
Opening your mind both at work and at home allows you to connect with others in a way you might not have otherwise. Encourage an atmosphere of tolerance and acceptance, and you’ll start to hear voices give contributions you might otherwise have missed.
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