One of the topics that my assistant principal and I have touched on lately is respectful disagreement or challenge. As leaders we need to be open to the opinions of others, whether they agree with us or not.
A Manager can dictate the rules and expectations of the workplace. I have worked for principals who operate in this way. Any disagreement was viewed as insubordination or disrespect, and it didn’t take long before people learned not to question any decision that was brought down. It also didn’t take long for people to lose trust in the boss as they felt they were not trusted.
So much of what we do as leaders involves the building and the implementation of trust. In an open and trusting environment, people will feel free to bring up their opinions and feelings. Some might argue against this and say that people need to know who the leader is, and that if the followers have the ability to alter decisions or ideas, they won’t have the same respect for the leader. I think this is true – people will not have the same respect for an open, listening leader – they will likely have more! A leader who respects the opinions of the people they work for will gain respect as being a person who values them.
There are a couple of rules I like to follow in this type of situation though,
- Everyone needs to speak for themselves – there is no room for, “everyone thinks…” or “A bunch of staff are feeling..”
- We deal in data, not in conjecture. Decisions are made on the best data available
- Conversations are without blame. We try to operate on an ‘autopsy without blame’ mindset. Let’s look at the facts.
- Everyone has the right to be heard.
- Everyone must have an open mind.
When you are dealing with feelings, though, it’s not always easy. But being open to listening to others ideas and being open to what they have to say goes a long way. People, more than anything need to feel they have been heard.