I am asked many times, “What do you think?” about a situation, a business idea, a strategy, etc… And, I’m sure you are too.
I am surprised by two aspects of this question. The questioner and the one asked.
Many times, the people who ask that question are really not ready for the answer. The reality is that the questioner is looking for validation of a preconceived idea or answer. If the response to “What do you think?” is not congruent with their thoughts, they may become defensive or politely dismiss it within their own mind. However, none of us are mind readers, so you and I must overcome the cynicism that would project that presumption on every questioner.
In my leadership class at Concordia University Texas, the first couple of class meetings with my students are interesting as the students start to realize that they can truly speak freely in my class. When I ask them a question, I don’t want them to answer with what they think I want to hear – I want to know what THEY think. I get to witness how liberating that can be as they get more and more comfortable ‘speaking up.’ The depth of the discussions is much richer as they wrestle freely and openly with their ideas and ideologies.
I used to ask my employees what they thought about a certain idea or strategy, and I was no different. I was really looking for that same validation of MY idea. It took me a long time to learn to suspend my own preconceived ideas and truly get curious about THEIR thoughts – THEIR ideas. Guess what. Their ideas were better! Instead of validating a good idea, they made a good idea even better.
As the questioner, do you really want to know what people think? Do you value their input and thoughts? Are you willing to set aside your ego, truly listen and hear them?
As the one asked “What do you think?”, are you willing to risk sharing your thoughts? You might be wrong…. but you might be right! What’s important is to offer your thoughts, so that you and the questioner can become collaborators in moving from good to great. You have the opportunity to make good ideas great, to make good work great, and to make good people great.
What do you think?