The danger of looking good

Many times a day we manage our image by controlling information in social interactions. This often happens subconsciously. We almost automatically decide to withhold our opinion because it may be unpopular, not ask a question because we may look stupid, and we certainly won’t admit a mistake because others may look down on us.

The free exchange of ideas, concerns or questions is routinely hindered by interpersonal fear far more often than most managers realize.
Amy C. Edmondson - The Fearless Organization

We spend a lot of effort on looking good.

The danger of looking good is that you could end up dissatisfied and the team or organization as a whole will underperform. High performing teams have a climate of openness and trust that makes it easier to be your true, imperfect self.

So how can we encourage that climate of openness?

Research suggests there are a few things leaders should do. They are easy to understand, but difficult to master. One of those things is to ask powerful questions.

Asking powerful questions begins with the right mindset: the mindset of a “don’t knower”. If you believe that there are many things you don’t know, and you believe your staff knows some things you don’t, that’s a good start to being able to ask powerful questions.

The next step to asking powerful questions is to listen attentively. It helps if you can keep your opinions, advice and interpretations to yourself and focus on the other person. Just doing that will help you to come up with relevant questions.

If you want to practice this, as well as learn other techniques to encourage a climate of openness, come to one of our workshops “Creating a Safe-to-fail Environment”.

Image by  Linda van Sinten