Buckle up, friends, because this is the one where I share some truths.
I’ve learned many things in my years as a business owner and consultant but a few months ago, I had one of the biggest lightbulb moments of my career.
I made a huge mistake and it was costing me business.
I’ll avoid getting into the nitty-gritty of this mistake but it simply came down to this: I wasn’t listening to my audience and I was basing many of my offers and marketing choices on assumptions about my clients, rather than hard facts gathered by listening to them.
I think for many leaders and consultants, you get to a point in your career where you feel that you’ve seen it all. You learn to trust your instincts and in many ways, this is a good thing. But there comes a point where you start listening to your gut instincts over the voices of those around you. This is where you can start to cost yourself. If you work for yourself, you could be costing yourself business or if you’re part of an organization, you could lose the loyalty of your team and your rightful seat at the table with the C-Suite.
I believe as leaders it’s important to self-reflect on a consistent basis, even when you are moving quickly and chasing big goals. As I reflect on my missteps, I wanted to share three key points that helped me correct my mistakes and will hopefully help you avoid them!
Listen to others
Whether you’re like me and are a consultant, or you’re trying to manage a team and please a C-Suite, listening is a core component of leadership. However, listening is not always easy. You will hear things you don’t want to hear and think, “Well they’re wrong and I’m right so I’m not going to listen to their views.”
Differing views and conflicting opinions are part of business. Modern leaders want the best for their organizations and it’s normal to believe your views are the best. But the next time you hear a conflicting viewpoint and your urge is to “Shutdown and ignore,” I urge you to stop and ask a simple question in return: “Interesting viewpoint. I’d love to dig in on why you feel this way.”
The goal is not to shut down, it’s not to agree and it’s not to give up. It’s simply to dig in for more information. With an open mind and the right questions, you are creating space to find the solution.
Question your assumptions
While you’re working to understand why your team and colleagues feel a certain way, it pays to do the same for your ideas and viewpoints as well.
Questioning your assumptions is a powerplay for every leader.
The IT world changes at lightning-fast speeds. The trends of 6 months ago are now commonplace and the hot new technology of last year has already started being replaced.
In an industry where everything is evolving, your assumptions and beliefs should too. When was the last time you tested an age-old assumption or asked a clarifying question about a process, service or piece of technology to determine if it’s still working?
When you question your assumption, you are creating opportunities for continuous improvement, a hallmark of the modern IT organization.
Commit to learning
Leaders are always learning. This is probably not news to you but I challenge you to view this last point as more than keeping up on the latest trends or reading the latest news every morning. Instead, I encourage you to continue learning about your organization, the end users and your team.
Much like I had to learn more about my clients and their current needs, IT leaders should learn about the other departments, their end users, and, of course, the needs and desires of their own internal IT team just as much as they need to understand the latest piece of software.
This is also a fantastic area for you to encourage your deputies and other members of your team to practice, as well. Every member of your team can learn more about their end users and it will elevate the overall IT organization.
Part of the objectives of a modern IT department is to make an easier, faster and more streamlined experience for users. When was the last time you learned about the needs of a user from the actual user (and not from data or assumptions)?
Leaders make more mistakes than many of us realize. Course correcting along the way is part of leadership and success. We have a little less than half of 2019 left in front of us and this is a fantastic opportunity to look back on this year and ask yourself where you’re not listening, what assumptions your making, and how much you’ve learned so far this year.
I can tell you from experience that while it’s a humbling practice, the outcome of it can lead to more opportunities than you could have experienced otherwise.
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