Career Skills – Keeping Your Mind Open

An article I wrote about keeping an open mind in the workplace has been published by multiple outlets in the past few months.

Subsequently there has been a good amount of feedback regarding this topic.  However, due to the limitations on the number of words that many outlets place on authors, the content that was published had to be a bit limited.

So, based upon the questions and feedback that I received, here is an enhanced version of the topic.  As always, please feel free to leave comments and/or questions.

Let’s face facts, many individuals in the workplace (particularly in leadership positions) have created the illusion for themselves that their ideas alone are the best and that’s final, no matter what.

That brings us to what is one of the most important, yet difficult to achieve aspects of Business & Leadership in general – maintaining an open mind.  Unfortunately, the reality is that this concept is utterly disregarded by many individuals throughout the corporate world today.

The reasons for this can be somewhat varied, depending on the individual and the aspects of their environment.  However, there are some shared characteristics as well.  So now let’s take a look at a few of the major points that contribute to this issue, and what can be done about it.

  • Who’s in Charge?

Management positions can be a double edged sword for many professionals.  Walking the line between being a true leader and just forcing things on people is very difficult, and many individuals are not prepared for the task.

Much of the trouble is due to people letting their egos run amok and control their thought processes unchecked by sensibility, compassion, or understanding.  This is evidenced by the fact that virtually every professional in business today (regardless of industry) has at least one story of an encounter with a peer, manager, or executive that behaved this way, and many professionals face this situation on a daily basis.  You could present excellent perspective and provide evidence to back it up, but in the minds of people like this, it doesn’t matter.  They will do what they want, period, because they are either the boss or the project lead, and to their line of thinking that makes them automatically correct.

Breaking the cycle of this kind of behavior can be extremely difficult for individuals entrenched within it.  This is due to the fact that it requires a high level of self-awareness and the ability to view one’s self objectively.  If you suddenly have a moment of realization and find yourself caught in this kind of cycle, then you must make a conscious effort to step outside yourself and see things for what they really are.  Once that is done, you can begin to take corrective action and get back on the proper path.

  • The Shadow of Fear

Another major reason many professionals have difficulty keeping an open mind is quite simply – fear.

This fear can grab hold of your psyche if you possess the misguided feelings that if you do not present the best ideas and solutions at all times; you will appear weak or incompetent to your peers, upper management, and clients.

However, the reverse is actually true.  By being a tyrant and closing your mind to other possibilities, it will make you appear, rigid, unyielding, and unapproachable.  If this happens, people will begin to avoid you at all costs, or keep you at arms-length in every encounter to minimize contact.  Not a very productive environment at all, and not good for your reputation either.

So, to avoid this dangerous negativity, you must make a serious effort to ensure that these fears do not overwhelm you and take control of your thought processes.  You can do this by bearing in mind that leaders inspire their teams to find the best solutions.  Allow yourself to be a calm, understanding source of inspiration and support, without forcing things on people.

Lastly, once it is time for actions to be implemented, make sure to give your team members the space needed to actually do the job.  Let them know that you are ready to assist, but don’t constantly hover over their shoulders.  This freedom will foster further creativity, helping the team’s endeavors to reach great heights.

  • The Quest for Glory

Fame, recognition, bonuses, higher salaries…..all of these things are associated with achievement in the workplace, so of course these things are among the top priorities on every professional’s list.

There is no denying that you and every other person in the workforce wants to have those shining moments in the career where greatness is achieved.  However, during the pursuit of those moments, many individuals put their blinders on, get caught up in the chase, and only see what their contributions can bring to table, pushing everyone else aside so that they themselves can take center stage, regardless of the repercussions.

This is nothing more than another example of the person’s ego running rampant.  It has simply taken a different path.  Don’t let yourself become someone like that by falling into the trap of tunnel vision.  Just let the blinders fall by the wayside where they belong.

  •  Power Corrupts?  Not so Fast….

As the old adage goes – it’s very easy for power to go right to your head.  (Which can particularly occur when an individual receives a promotion).

Subsequently, in the corporate world’s current climate of the “me, me, only me” mentality, facing the fact that they do not have all the best answers or solutions is very disconcerting for many people as it shatters the illusion of self-perfection that has been built up within their own minds.  So in order to avoid facing reality, they use the power and authority of their position to live in absolute denial of the truth, causing everyone around them to suffer for their delusions.

This is another example of the ego attempting to assert control from a different angle. However, you must remember that this can happen only if you allow it to happen.  So, if you have your ego in check, this trap can be avoided.

To achieve this, you must make a conscious choice to ensure that you really listen and contemplate other viable possibilities when they are presented.  Again, a true leader must continuously bear in mind that just because they are in a management position does not mean that they always have the best ideas or solutions.

Finally, learning early on that swallowing your pride and being open to new perspectives will allow you to significantly broaden the horizons of your career by letting new ideas take you in new directions.

Things to Remember

  • As a business professional, you should strive to be open to meaningful suggestions and options from both your peers and leadership.
  • Keep your ego in check by acknowledging and accepting the fact that no one person can know it all, no matter what level their position is within the hierarchy.
  • When good, viable options are presented by others, be sincerely grateful for the input and tell those individual(s) who presented the options that they are appreciated.  That action will demonstrate to the other members of the organization that their perspectives matter, which has a positive effect for the overall environment.
  • People who have open minds in leadership positions tend to obtain the best projects and assignments, and subsequently become the leader that everyone wants to work for.  So it stands to reason that if you ultimately want access to the best choices, it is prudent to maintain an open perspective.

Bearing all of these things in mind will keep you on the path of true professionalism, while simultaneously enhancing your career significantly.  Finally, it will also help you to avoid the self-destruction of egocentric behavior, which has been the downfall of many potentially great professionals over the years.

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