Wednesday, September 25, 2013

"I Think..."

“I Think…”
The two most frequently used words in corporate America and maybe even society as a whole are “I Think…" 

How often do we hear it? Partners, leaders, colleagues, and even customers say it all day long…day in and day out.  
The risk with beginning a sentence with, “I think” is that it assumes the person on the other end of the phone conversation, across the conference room table, across the aisle, in the audience, or in the classroom actually cares to know what we think. It assumes that we're already a respected and/or credible source of knowledge, on any given topic.  
The truth is…they may not even care.  Or even worse…they may not even respect us, let alone what we think.
OneMoreStep Thought for this week – especially for those of us who take pride in leading, whether we ‘have THE title" or not – is to simply change the “I think…” to “what do you think?”  
The word leadership can be defined many different ways, but I like this one (among others):
"Leadership is the activity of influencing people to cooperate towards some goal, which they come to find desirable and which motivates them over the long haul." – Ordway Tead, The Art of Influence
Most people become successful because once upon a time, they were really good at ‘something’.Whether it’s selling, creating art of any kind, speaking, writing, dancing, adding and subtracting…some people are just really good at doing, whatever it is.
For true leaders, however, everything changes.  It’s less about what we do, and it becomes all about what we can inspire others to do.  It’s far less about what we think, and all about inspiring them to share what they think.  
Once we accept that ever-so-dynamic (and at times difficult) challenge of influencing…it’s less and less about us and ALL about them.  The mark of a great leader or coach or teacher or mentor (those who have accepted, with an open mind and heart, this leadership challenge) is no longer what we can do, but instead it’s all about how well can lead others to go do __________ something.
So it stands to reason, that if true leadership really is all about taking a group of people, transforming them into a TEAM, and then ultimately leading them toward a common goal with unified focus…leaders should ask “what do you think…” more than we boldly proclaim, what “I think…
Great leaders facilitate collaborative conversations as opposed to dominating every conversation.   
Successful coaches take suggestions and input from their players and assistant coaches rather than taking the “my way or the highway” approach.   
The most inspiring teachers and professors take pride in being lifelong learners, and they take time to stop and ask students what they think as opposed to always pontificating with sentences that begin with, "I think."
What do you think?
Have a great day.
One for the road…
Thanks to Arthur Keith, a former leader of mine and someone I’m proud to call a friend and colleague, who in the summer of 2007 taught me this very important “I think” vs. “What do you think” lesson.  Arthur was my Leadership Coach, in a Leadership Development Program when I was in graduate school. 
Arthur, I may have thanked you then, for this simple yet profound leadership nugget…but I’m sure I didn’t articulate it well enough.  So…thank you, again, for the very candid feedback and coaching six years ago. 

1 comment:

  1. Taylor as much as I really feel blessed to have had great mentors along the way-- I have learned my true blessings are those who I have had the opportunity to mentor.
    I am very proud of the leader you have become and that you continue to "pour into others'!
    Be Blessed My Friend!!!