Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management

Valuing the Differences of Others

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Guest post by Dr. Andrew L. Thorn

I recently participated in two very different but similar meetings. The focus of each of the meetings was exactly the same, but the complexity of each group was completely different.

In one group, the people embraced a very similar philosophy and mindset on the proposed topic. The other group was filled with people who represented very different perspectives, viewpoints and backgrounds.

I gained a lot from both experiences, but after a while, I became very bored with the similar group. They definitely had every viewpoint from A to B well represented, but beyond that, it was hard to find any value. Unfortunately, we didn’t make much progress in accomplishing our purpose.

The diverse group challenged my thinking. There were view points represented that were difficult for me to comprehend because they were so different than my own. The meeting participants were energetic and courteous. They were not afraid to have their views questioned or examined by the others. They were very open to learning from the other group members.

Understanding Others

I thoroughly enjoyed the meeting with this diverse group and I left with a healthy appreciation and affection for each member. I never felt challenged to change my values, and as a result, I felt safe to open my mind to new ideas. It was a wonderful opportunity for me to examine the beliefs of others. Instead of judging them, I suspended my previous assumptions and allowed myself to see what they see. Because I was willing to extend this courtesy to them, they returned the favor to me.

I discovered that even though my values and opinions remained basically the same, my influence with my new friends increased. This dramatically affected our ability to work together. As a result, we made significant progress on our common interests.

 

Authentic Leadership

My experiences with these two groups reminded me of something my brother Larry taught me. Whenever we disagreed, he would say, “if we were all the same, there would be no need for all of us”.

This statement continues to guide my work. I understand that I am most effective when I surround myself with people who think and act much differently than I do. My association with friends of different opinions creates many opportunities to stretch my way of thinking.

Great leaders do not fear the fringes or the edges. They recognize that by creating space for all voices to be heard, they become an authentic agent of change. Because their influence is felt, their leadership is more highly regarded. When the point of decision arrives, they are seen as credible and trustworthy.

The Big Picture

Just because we learn to view things from a larger perspective does not mean that we must abandon our own values, it simply means that we learn to see what is going on in the complete system. When we do this, we create solutions that accelerate growth and development.

I realize that it is difficult to suspend our beloved biases and judgments, but it can be done without losing our individual identity, and a better solution almost always emerges when we do it. I invite you to consider the following questions:

How willing are you to consider viewpoints that are different from your own?

What benefits come from stretching to see the perspectives of others?

How do you feel when someone takes the time to see things as you see them?

Remember, the real point of leadership is not to change others, but to enroll them in a collaborative effort to achieve a common goal. You are free to draw the line in your personal values, most of us even expect you to do so and respect you when you do. When we become secure in who we are, we become more free about opening ourselves up to others, and that is when our effectiveness as a leader truly soars.

Dr. Andrew L. Thorn

Dr. Andrew Thorn is the founder of Telios Corporation and creator of The Telios Experience™.  He holdsa PhD in Consulting Psychology, a Masters in Personal and Executive Coaching, and a Masters in Business Administration from Pepperdine University.  Dr. Thorn is also the author of U-wun-ge-lay-ma: A Guide to Next-level Living and the upcoming book Who Do You Want To Be When You Grow Whole? The Future of Meaning and Purpose.  He lives in Apple Valley, California with his wife Stacy and seven children.     


The Product Management Perspective: One of the highpoints of being a product manger is working with a diverse group of people. From developers, to marketers to salespeople, to executives, we get to work closely with all of them. Sometimes they challenge us; sometimes they make life miserable. If we are open to new ideas and willing to learn from others, our products will be all the better. As Dr. Thorn says, “a better solution almost always emerges when we suspend our beloved biases.” Enroll your team in a collaborative effort to achieve great products.

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