“It is impossible to begin to learn that which one thinks one already knows.”
This quote, attributed to the Greek philosopher Epictetus, is one of my favorite quotes of all time. It’s an important piece of wisdom that I love to share with businesses, since it’s aimed at the brains of leaders. It also happens to be especially poignant as we approach 2017.
To be truly successful in the new year, CEOs, business owners and team leaders need to realize that “knowing it all” isn’t really knowing anything at all.
Too often, leaders get caught in the familiar trap of making decisions without team input, because it may appear faster or more efficient. While some decisions can be left to one person, more often than not, leaders would benefit from conferring with teammates to gather additional perspectives. This not only helps with the decision-making process, but will ultimately save time and keep morale high.
As a leader, do you encourage feedback from your teams, colleagues and friends? If not, the new year might be a good time to get started. Communication skills need to be refined over time and you’ll need to practice perfect your technique.
Want to up your game at the office and open your brain to the knowledge of those around you? Adopt a student mindset. Here are 4 tips to get started:
If you think you’ve got all the answers, you don’t. Everyone can be better, including you. Turn your brain into a sponge for others’ knowledge. If you’re used to things being “your way or the highway, this could take a bit of effort. Start by being honest about your intentions with your team and make a public call for their feedback, opinions and thoughts.
Once you’ve asked for other’s opinions, it’s time to listen. Just as your teachers told you when you were a student, closing your mouth and opening your ears is crucial to gaining knowledge. If you’ve publically requested feedback and then don’t at least consider the feedback you receive, you’ll have wasted everyone’s time and damaged morale as well. Remind yourself to really listen when others are talking and then take time to consider what you’ve heard before saying yes or no.
In addition to listening, you’ve got to engage emotionally if you want to build stronger relationships. What does that mean? Start by putting yourself in other people’s shoes. It’s not just about what they’re saying. Take time to consider how they feel and what’s motivated them to share what they’re telling you. If you can connect with your team emotionally, you’ll establish a deeper level of communication and a stronger relationship as well. This will lead to trust and ensure that you receive the most honest feedback possible.
If you’re a business leader, you know the value of constantly learning with an eye towards consistent improvement – in your business and in your life. Surround yourself with like-minded individuals who share your passion for learning. Encourage them to share their hobbies, passions and areas of interest that may not be immediately obvious to those around them. Sometimes the best ideas for your business will come from areas outside your business. Your continuous learners will be your most creative thinkers, and become your greatest asset.
Lastly, make time for your colleagues. That first step of making a proactive effort to go to the team with questions is important, but to truly take advantage of strong relationships with your teammates, welcome conversation and mentoring moments, even if you think you may be “too busy.”
Considering other’s opinions is never “inefficient,” and rarely muddle the path forward. In fact, the more points of view you have to consider, the more likely you are to make a thoughtful decision – and help build your team culture at the same time. Adopting a student mindset is key to setting an example in your organization, boosting your level of knowledge and becoming a stronger, more engaged leader in 2017.
This article originally appeared on Huffington Post.