How open are you to being challenged?

  • If your answer is ‘not very open’, then read on.
  • If your answer is ‘yes of course I am, I’m always open to challenge’ think about the last time you were challenged. How did you receive and react to that. Be honest in your reflection. Then read on.

In my work with executives and teams of all levels, a recurring theme is the attachment to being right. The belief that your solution is the right one.  If you start from this point of belief, you are

  • potentially missing a different way of looking at things, and opportunities to try something new.
  • listening to any challenge or comment from a perspective of how to take that challenge and still prove your idea is right.
  • putting a lot of pressure on yourself as the owner of the right solution.

To increase your openness to challenge and release the new possibilities created by challenge here are a few ideas.

  1. Seek to understand. What’s the reason behind the challenge? What stakeholder needs are being represented in that challenge? Is there something you missed in defining your answer?
  2. Switch your listening. Listen for potential and ideas that could add to your position. Stop yourself listening for flaws in the challenge and reasons why it is wrong.
  3. Direct your questioning with good intent. Avoid questioning to find fault or undermine the challenge. Ask questions to build the idea and remain open to the outcome as you do this.
  4. Align on a bigger purpose. All to often we end up debating tactical points and go round in circles. Re-confirm the overall vision you’re all working towards. If that’s not there, find it before carrying on a tactical debate/challenge.
  5. Be generous. Offering up a challenge can take courage. Acknowledge the value of the challenge and the effort taken to think about it.
  6. Be flexible. Be genuine in considering the value in the challenge and whether the current chosen course needs to flex.
  7. Move forward from whatever decision is made. Don’t harp back to your original idea. If something ‘new’ is tried and doesn’t work, identify what you all learnt as a team (and the answer isn’t ‘we should have stuck with my idea’!)

Do feedback any comments, experience or observations on this blog. There are are few links below you might find useful too.

Further reading:

Invisible skills of exceptional leaders points 5-8 from this blog by Jeff Haden reference the importance of allowing ideas to come from different areas.

The four people you need to build a successful business a useful summary by Sonia Thompson of the types of people and challenge to ensure you have around you.

Thinking Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman: this award winning book delineates cognitive biases associated with the two types of thinking Kahneman identified through his research. It looks at different biases, including confirmation bias which impacts on points 2 and 3 above.