Nobody needs another opinion

Just before Christmas a colleague asked me why I hadn’t written anything on here for a while. Whilst I was obviously aware that I hadn’t, I was surprised when I looked back and saw that it had been around three months. As someone who had previously written once a week, my writing during the pandemic had started to slow and then eventually, and intentionally stopped.

When people are dying, people are losing their businesses, families are being kept apart, writing about the importance of strong cultures or leadership felt…well a bit glib. And then all the space for debate in the workplace was filled with vacuous debates around hybrid working which, any objective view would tell you, is the least pressing issue for anyone running an organisation.

Frankly, I came to the conclusion that the last thing I or anyone else needed was another opinion.

A bit of time and space and I can’t help thinking that I was entirely wrong, we have never needed a diversity of opinion more. The problem is our ability to convey opinions sensibly and our reluctance to listen to and consider those that are different or challenge our perspective. Immediately jumping into criticism and critique, rather than embracing curiosity and asking questions. I know I am, and I think others are are, prone to falling into that trap.

Our thinking, decision making our choices and our ideas can only be improved by taking into account the widest range of perspectives. Whether that is in our teams, in our businesses, around board tables or in broader societal debates. Listening to different views or perspectives that are held sincerely and expressed respectfully is an undeniable strength, particularly when they challenge our beliefs or long held perspectives. The moment we think, “well they would say that”, we’ve shelved our curiosity.

But in order to consider the widest range of perspectives, we need people to feel confident they can express freely and openly those opinions. We need to value independence and creativity and avoid the trap of slipping into group think and soundbites. We need to be careful in the language that we use ourselves and to others and when we do come across something we find uncomfortable, we need to be willing to ask more and assert less.

Add to this the inevitable social media pile on when someone tries to outline a different opinion particularly about any of the “golden topics” – flexibility, diversity, executive pay, working practices, trust, employee responsibilities to name but a few – and you end up with the type of anodyne debate that serves no-one well and leaves many silently frustrated. And what is perhaps worse, is we give those that shout the loudest the false impression that everyone thinks the same, encouraging them to raise their voices even further.

So as my little self coaching session concludes; I need to take more time to listen to genuinely held and respectfully made views that challenge me, likewise I need to have the courage to express views responsibly that might challenge others and I need to silence the noise of those that don’t want to enter into a genuine conversation but instead want to simply point score.

Let’s see how we go.

Give me a break

It’s that time of year again when we’re all starting, or thinking about starting, our Christmas break. The jumpers have been worn, the sherry drunk and the Christmas misdemeanours almost, ALMOST forgotten. It’s time for a break. A well earned rest.

And yet, whilst we all yearn for a break, I’m not so sure we give each other the same respect.

Meetings scheduled for the first couple of days back, reports sent on the last day before the holidays, actions completed and requirements passed on.

Because we need to get this off our list, off our backs and settle down for a Christmas break.

The thing is, have you thought about the person that you’re sending that email on to? The one that receives that report the day they are due to go on holiday, or has an important meeting land in the diary for their first day back?  Is this about getting things off your list, or do things really need to happen?

Are you making sure that those around you have a decent break too?

And it isn’t just about our work. What about those people working in the shops, for the courier firms, keeping our transport system going, our lights on and our internet working? Answering our calls and dealing with our queries, helping us to…..well switch off.

As you go away for your well deserved break, ask yourselves what you could do to give other people a break. At work, at home, when you’re out shopping, or dealing with that last minute issue. How do you want them to feel over the holidays, how do you want them to wake up on Christmas day?

Respect isn’t a once a year phenomenon, but once a year we can focus on how we can do more.

Enjoy your break and let other people around you enjoy it too. They may be working, but it doesn’t mean you have to make their lives harder. They may be off, but it doesn’t mean you need to make sure they’re thinking about the return.

Take a break and give others a break too.

It’s what we all deserve.

I’ll be back in the New Year with more ramblings and general grumpiness. Until then.

Peace out.