Each of us have different experiences that impact our perception of events as they unfold. I found that my past experience with a person, or group of people, was one of the biggest limiting factors to my ability to broaden my circle of influence, to be included on the growth of an initiative or to be sought out for an opinion. As much as I would have liked to say I was actively listening to another person’s perspective, the reality was that I had a preconceived notion of what I believed they were going to do or say, which had a negative impact on my ability to participate in a true dialogue. This put up a barrier, inhibiting my ability to communicate effectively, and made it difficult for some people to talk to me or include me. More importantly, it made them want to go around me.
Over time, what I’ve found is that each of us has the ability to “predict the future,” or more accurately – mold the future. We take our preconceived notion and tell a story to ourselves that explains each event that unfolds, and no matter what the event or true outcome is, we are magnificent storytellers who can weave a version that validates any thought we have.
The biggest steps I’ve taken in my professional career came when I was part of a team that accomplished amazing goals. I participated on those teams only when I was able to put my past behind me, build the current picture of events based on the current data and treat everyone involved with the respect that I wanted to see reflected back to me.
Now, this isn’t to say that you do not utilize knowledge and past experience to help manage. You know how someone best communicates, then you communicate in that fashion. You know what a certain person’s “hot buttons” are, and you don’t push them.
The ultimate thing to refrain from is assuming ill intent. In the day-to-day, take a person for their word and appreciate their contribution. If you feel hostility, be vulnerable and ask for a side conversation to air out the issues. Find common ground and an agreement on how to work together going forward. You don’t have to like each other to work together and do great things, you just have to respect what the other brings to the table.
Your ability to bring a team together and find ways to best utilize everyone’s talent is the key. Listening with a clear mind is necessary to unlock that potential and build a team like no other.