As Benjamin Franklin has said, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
You get excited by the possibilities and reach out your co-workers to involve them in your ideas. You are stunned and frustrated by the stonewalling and resistance. Then you are overcome by curiosity, after all, it is highly unlikely that Ben was wrong. Besides, it makes perfect sense.
Then it dawns on you to ask whether Ben ever explained how to involve him. You look at the diverse stakeholders in your workplace, wonder how you will figure out how to involve each and every one of them, and think to yourself, “this is a lot of work.”
Fortunately for us, the steps to involve and engage have been documented for us (here is one example, here is another). Yes, it is all about managing change.
The key point here is, involvement for involvement’s sake is a waste of time. There is a business goal in the workplace, make that your end game and involve/engage your co-workers towards that end. This will work best when it is not be about you or your ego, and when you are open to ideas that will achieve business goals faster, cheaper, and better.
In training leaders, I place a lot of emphasis on looking within. While learning by osmosis, and learning by observing others, has value, doing so without understanding your intrinsic capabilities to perform leadership roles can lead to developing bad habits. An over dependence on role models can lead to blind faith.
Assuming you have looked within and gained an understanding of who you are, and have come to terms with what you have discovered about yourself, answering one question may help shorten your journey to being a leader: how do your co-workers perceive you?
This question is difficult to answer. Some obstacles are:
- Your co-worker is unable or unwilling to give you useful, actionable feedback, or
- You don’t understand the feedback, or
- The feedback is not palatable and you reject it as invalid, or
- Your over analyze the feedback given to you and take no action, or
- You take the wrong action to fix the problem, or
- You just don’t have the discipline, energy, and resilience to learn what your co-workers think about you.
While it may be difficult, it is not impossible to answer this question. It takes a high degree of self awareness, flexibility, and willingness to experiment with your behaviors. It helps if you can leave your emotions out of it and not take feedback personally. In fact, you can blunt any personal attack and disarm any opponent by providing a rational, unemotional description of the feedback, and ask suggestions for improvement.
As you do this over time, you realize that you have created your own barriers to decode the signals being sent by your co-workers. Taking down these barriers is all you need to do, the benefits will automatically follow.