One of the most unspoken pressures I see in CEOs comes from the feeling that you need to have the answers.
You’re the boss. People turn to you for an answer. You give it.
The challenge is that if it’s as linear as that – if people look to you for an answer, and every time you either
… give it from the well of answers that you’ve accumulated because you have all the answers
… or you give it under the pressure of feeling that you have to give an answer
\- then you’re missing out on the most beautiful part of having a team.
Diversity of outlook, of thinking, of experience, of context, of background.
All contribute to a vast cognitive diversity that your company should benefit from.
You get the benefit of that by ‘listening to’ more than by ‘talking at’.
More than once, I’ve had directors or other senior leaders tell me in private that they were astonished that I let some of my team members so openly disagree with me.
And every time, I tell them it’s because I simply don’t have the arrogance to assume I have the right answer every time. Or even most of the time.
Sure – at the end, a decision needed to be made, and as MD or CEO, it’s down to us to make it. But a healthy debate would have us all seeing why that decision is being made the way it is, and would have given the opportunity for us to explore alternative options before deciding.
The egotist in me, actually probably also the Middle Eastern in me, and the male in me – all of these would have me wanting to win a debate.
And in a debating chamber, that’s likely useful.
But in business? In life more generally?
Debates aren’t to win. Debates are to learn.
And so to every CEO who’s felt the pressure of having to have the answer, I’d tell you that most of that pressure is self-inflicted.
And that you DO have a responsibility, but that responsibility is to \*get\* to the answer, not necessarily to pluck it out of your hat every time.
And the process of getting to the answer not only means you’re more likely to get to a better one, but that you’ll take more of your team with you.
Pause. Discuss. Explore. Disagree. Answer. Lead.
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