One of the common complexes of younger leaders is “Superman” or “Wonder Woman” thinking. This is where a leader comes to believe they are invulnerable to needing input or, worse yet, that seeking it is a source of weakness. If you will take a close look at most successful and sustained leaders you will find they have someone or a group of several people with whom they talk about their challenges on a regular basis. In many instances, though not an absolute, some younger leaders will seek out a mentor while more mature leaders may tend to seek out peers in similar positions to be sounding boards. Either one, or even both, works for any circumstance and are a wise investment of time for anyone in a position of influence. Only a foolish person believes their own sustained efforts will result in consistent long-term best outcomes. The ways getting outside input benefits someone are plentiful and should be pursued. Here are but just a few of the reasons to pursue this:
Outward processing helps you clarify your inner voice. How many times in your life have you found an idea sounded good in your head but not so smart once you said it aloud to someone? There is something in the vocalization of an idea that accesses the auditory sections of your brain. Taking the time to form the words and communicate your ideas and/or challenges verbally will help you more deeply process an idea immediately and will force you to fill in gaps that simply thinking on it inevitably will leave. Work through basic insecurities of sharing an unformed idea with someone you trust by simply stating “I’m thinking out loud here” and invite them to help look for holes in the concept. By simply expressing the thought you will find a few weaknesses on your own in most cases.
Outside input helps you clarify context. The old saying “you can’t see the forest for the trees” puzzled many of us as youngsters but is a truth in life. Often we can’t see the whole because we are too focused on the individual parts. A trusted someone can help you see something that is often blatantly obvious but because you are in too deep you aren’t currently seeing. Many times we find a quick answer may seem to solve the immediate problem but create several new ones to manage. A wise outside voice will ask the “have you considered” type of questions that often we miss in the urgency to solve a problem. NOTE: The “what am I missing” question is also a great trust-building for those you lead. It invites them into the process and often others can contribute angles they see hidden to your perspective.
Outward processing helps you let off steam. As inferred above the enemy of a great solution is an urgent one. We can rush to decisions for two bad reasons: 1) we have allowed urgency to drive our fear or 2) we have allowed frustration to drive our fear. For good reasons we may wish for a problem to go away immediately. This may be simply we want to remove the problem for our team. However, a decision driven too much by urgency may not end up helping anyone. Secondly, sometimes we fall victim to allowing our emotions to create the need for an immediate solution to be put into place where one may not be needed. It might be that we are mad or embarrassed over the issue and seek to solve it fast so we can move on. In both situations, it is likely inflated urgency is driving the solution. A good outside voice will slow you down and help you to decide whether what is driving you is a sense of misplaced urgency or if your potential solution is truly strategic in nature.
Take the time to build trust and invest in an outside voice. If nothing else there is always something cathartic about being able to discuss a challenge and display real emotions over it rather than keeping it all bottled up inside. Finding a sound voice or a group of wise peers will increase your ability to make strong decisions and to build trust and influence with your team.