This article presents reasons for why you should hear what even the most insignificant people on your team have to say. It strives to connect those reasons to your own maintenance of power and personal success.
People in positions of authority often treat distant subordinates with less respect than someone they work closely with. Time constraints are at play, and the perceived importance of giving the little guys a voice isn’t strong enough to change behavior. As a subordinate in any organized realm, you’ve likely experienced your input being judged based on your position in the hierarchy within which you interact, rather than on the merits of the ideas you present. Having our input not be taken seriously entices us to either begin trying harder to be heard, or to not try at all. The culture that being selective regarding whose word you listen to based on their position in the organization that you’re in, often snowballs into unfavorable states.
Our desire for personal success is at the root of our desire for the success of teams we lead. The act of legitimizing the efforts of people who are lowest on the totem pole will be the focus of this article.
A Culture of Acceptance and Its Effects
Establishing an accepting culture within your organization isn’t just about making everyone feel better about themselves. Though feelings of importance are at the root of people’s desire to be heard, the effects that hearing them out produce are worth mentioning. Giving – even the most insignificant – people a voice will expose you to unpolished opinions. The overall quality of the ideas which you listen to will be lower than if you were to control who gets to speak and when they do. If anything at all, allowing them to express what’s on their mind will discourage negativity to propagate amongst those you lead. People who aren’t heard will yearn to be heard in ways you can’t control.
As someone of importance, your attention will be a commodity. Those on the lower ends of the hierarchy within which you hold a position of power will value your attention and reward it more than those who are your peers. Being liked by the common man is a valuable advantage to possess. Though the ideas the little guys present may not be of value, the feelings which you give birth to in being charitable with your attention are valuable themselves. Sitting at a desk job and being the subject of your CEO’s genuine positive interest for even just a minute, will do a lot in developing your loyalty for them.
The game of developing loyalty in those you lead is therefore more about being in tune with feelings rather than the facts. It is about being aware that the position of authority which you occupy is rewarded proportionally higher the lower down the ladder you go. As someone in a position of power, your behavior will be emulated by those who are your immediate subordinates. If you are a leader of leaders, the people you lead will notice your tendency to give the little man a voice. Encourage them to do the same. Become a listener of the perhaps uneducated, emotional, and unpolished opinions of those who are on the ground. It will create a culture of acceptance which is rewarded. Information will flow, and good ideas will be recognized sooner. You will empower those who don’t perceive themselves to hold any power. They will begin taking their role on your team more seriously, and will be more devoted to coming up with good ideas and doing good work.
Legitimizing Your Own Efforts
The cycle of positive acceptance will come back to you. We listen when we fulfill our desire to be heard. You will go on to notice that many people hold many opinions and theories, but few are willing to stand by, and prove, their opinions during important times. As the people around you feel legitimized and heard, they may begin losing confidence in their own opinions and ideas rather than feeling as if they were right all along. Their opinions will now be voiced, and will thereby be subject to being crucified by others who also have a voice and an opinion to share. Giving the little man a voice is thereby a covert method of control. It encourages those who lead to think of the effects that their decisions bring about, whilst also encouraging the opinionated subordinates to be a little less confident in their own ideas and opinions. They will feel more exposed to the battleground of ideas around them, and those who seek to continue voicing their opinion will be encouraged to tweak, improve, and refine it.
When it is your turn to voice your own opinions and theories, the people who you’ve legitimized will understand the difficulty involved in having a polished, solid, and respectable idea to present. Your ability to lead will be respected more than it was before, as you’ve allowed others to taste its facets for themselves. Legitimizing the efforts of the little guy thereby goes on to legitimize your own. Encourage yourself to be up for the challenge of listening to the not so polished opinions of those you lead or hold power over. If they have genuinely good ideas, you’ll go onto benefit by implementing them. If their ideas are bad, it will fulfill their desire to voice their bad ideas whilst also showing them weaknesses in the ideas which they hold. They will be more hesitant to express their thoughts going forward, and will yearn to provide genuinely valuable input down the line.