Keep your face light, open, and encouraging

Skill check. When somebody offers an idea, do you instantly analyze that idea for faults and then make sure they understand all the reasons it won’t work? 

I was at a school PTSA meeting and a new member of the group who had volunteered to coordinate the year’s events was outlining her ideas. I could tell she was a bit nervous. Not because she wasn’t up to the task, but because she was new to the district and new to the position. She had no institutional knowledge. She was coming in to it cold. 

I carefully watched the room. For every suggestion she made there was at least one comment, facial expression, or vocal retort. As she went through the gauntlet, she started to qualify her suggestions even more. We started to get the backstory, reasons these were good ideas, and her line of thinking. It was cringeworthy. She ended up running out of time and we never heard the remaining ideas. 

Here’s the skill: Can you listen to any idea and keep your face light, open, and encouraging while keeping your mouth shut? Or better yet, can you listen to really bad ideas with that same disposition and then ask sincere questions to further the thinking? 

This is grandmaster leadership stuff that takes a long time to perfect. Our bodies always want to tell others the “truth.” Our truth. We fold our arms and scrunch up our face and make judgmental sounds. But the grandmasters hold their truth back and earnestly engage others who are stepping up and trying to make things better. 

Why would they do this? When people shut down, we all lose. We need better ideas now than ever before. Keeping energy going is a skill.

by Jonathan Wilson

Jonathan is the Head Coach at Sandcastle Company, a Seattle-based leadership training organization. His first book, Future Leader: Rebooting Leadership to Win the Millennial and Tech Future [link], is now available. Jonathan regularly writes and speaks about The New Leader Way, leadership resilience, and the future of work. He has years of leadership experience in both the public and private sectors, a master's degree from Seattle University, and professional coach training from the University of Miami.

Filed under: Leadership

Published on October 11, 2019

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