Many of us grew up hearing that it is better to give than receive. I appreciate and agree with the importance of caring for others. However, I have seen too many leaders who have gotten really good at giving . . . direction, strategy, decisions, opinions . . . and yet are not so good at the receiving part. We seem to have missed that the scriptural guidance says it is better to give than receive, not that we should not receive. So how, exactly, should we go about receiving as a leader? There are three key areas that are a good place to start:
Receive New Ideas
Can you hear the creative thoughts of others, or does every new action need to come from you? Beyond just a willingness to hear, do you actually encourage people to bring their unique perspective to an organizational challenge — even if their suggestion is significantly different from your own? You as the leader have to give your staff a safe environment to share their novel ideas before you can receive their best thinking. Instead of rolling your eyes, impatiently shutting them down with a dismissive “we’ve tried that before” or immediately challenging their opinion . . . ask questions, allow them to run their idea out a bit, and encourage them to connect ideas in a new and different way. In return, you will receive a more energized, committed team and a wealth of new ideas, some of which may be the key to your organization’s continued success.
This one is harder. It is one thing to encourage your staff to share their ideas, it is quite another to make it safe enough for them to offer constructive criticism of your ideas or the direction of a project. After all, you’re in charge, right? Well . . . it is your job to help the organization succeed, and sometimes that means changing your mind when someone offers new information or a perspective you had not previously considered. One way to open the door to receiving feedback is to ask what you are missing, or if there are variables you may not have considered. When you invite input, you increase the likelihood of receiving valuable feedback that can strengthen your leadership.
Perhaps the hardest of all, at least for some of us, is being open to receiving encouragement. Yes, leadership can be lonely. We deal with a host of challenges that others aren’t aware of, and in our attempts to appear confident we may send the message that we don’t need people to offer their support. You don’t have to share all the details of the pressures before you, but you can still be transparent enough to allow others to help carry the load. And you might be surprised to learn that they feel valued when you let them provide encouragement where they can.
Leaders give a lot. Are you willing to receive?