Things are changing fast. Taking just this week as an example, changes are happening at break neck speed that could effect your business. From the political crisis in Italy to the ECB increasing interest rates and trying to defend Europe’s sovereign debt by the new TPI tool – all this happening in the past 48 hours, which could all potentially have an effect on your business. The least you need as a business leader is to be entrapped in your echo chamber and not taking into account what is happening around you. Business leaders should avoid falling into the trap of surrounding themselves by people who think like them and agree with them. This occurs partly because of the affinity bias, which leads us to favour, associate with and employ those persons with whom we feel most similar. The lack of diverse perspectives could be devastating for a business, especially at particular delicate junctures. This is why outside help with fresh and different perspectives is fundamental.
To guard against the strategic disadvantages of being stuck in an echo chamber, below find some pointers that can help you out.
- Continuously solicit feedback and ideas from your team: Chances are that many of your people withhold valuable information, ideas, and concerns from you. Chase your team for their feedback and most of all listen attentively to it. Ask them to help you as to whether they are seeing things you might overlooked. Additionally, consistently ask your team for their ideas. Make sure to publicly acknowledge and thank independent voices that share a dissenting opinion, question your logic, or disagree with you. When your team sees that you meet challenging comments with gratitude, you’ll encourage more employees to speak up.When someone disagrees with you or challenges your opinion, override the natural urge to resist or discount. Instead, adopt an attitude of curiosity and ask questions to understand their perspective better.
- Do not just listen but be the last to speak: Building a habit of speaking last in meetings to hear a more diverse set of ideas and be sure not to influence the discussion. You already know what you know. What you need to do in meetings is discover what others know. Speaking last encourages your team to put their ideas and suggestions on the table, helps them feel listened to, and boosts ownership and team morale. Speaking last doesn’t mean being entirely quiet. Instead, it means that when you finally share your perspective or render an opinion, you will have had the benefit of hearing what others know and think first.
- Walk the talk: While your team pays attention to what you say, they are more keenly attuned to what you do, as actions speak louder than words. As a leader, you must be the change you ask of others. Not “walking the talk” undercuts your professed commitment and trust in your leadership. Walking the talk may not always be easy, but it’s essential if you want to inspire others to follow you. By modeling the behaviours you’re asking your team to display, such as sharing feedback and ideas, you build trust in your message and encourage others to behave similarly.
- Seek different external perspectives: It is of vital importance that you also seek external perspectives that are not influenced by internal cultures. This will give you insights into new perspectives and styles of problem-solving, which you can then use within your team. External consultants bring with them a wealth of knowledge, perspective and experience. They have likely already faced similar situations in different contexts and can provide their insights as to how face and address certain problems, besides being trained to join the dots between what is happening out there and how this can effect your business. You need to balance the cost of any external consultant with the cost of not having any external perspective and taking bad decisions you could grow to regret. As the business environment becomes more turbulent and complex the chances of taking such regrettable decisions is obviously on the increase.
At the end of the day, as the business environment is being more turbulent it pays you a business leader at not having an insular approach to how you run your business and how you take certain decisions. Building these new habits may be challenging at first, but in these fast-paced and uncertain times, now more than ever it’s worth the effort. Gaining diverse perspectives and using external expertise, has become a necessity and not an avoidable luxury.