I've become quite attached to this phrase recently:

I am that guy who under estimates how long a project is going to take. Maybe I'm optimistic or maybe I just think that everyone who is really good at what they do works really really ridiculously fast, I don't know! No matter why I think this way... I sometimes find myself working on a project or idea for WAAAAAYYYY longer than I thought it was going to take. I think it's probably safe to say that one big reason this happens is that I don't fully understand everything that is involved in the project that I am about to get involved in.

You know how that conversation goes, "Oh don't worry, this shouldn't take more than an hour...." 4 hours later you are still grinding away, and you are in trouble because you didn't make it home when you said you would. These kind of misunderstandings happen all of the time. We also tend to underestimate the amount of work involved when we are looking for additional hands or labour. I can almost guarantee you that any time your friend or buddy asks for your help when they move that it is going to take at least twice as much time as they told you it would! 
This brings me to one of the greatest leadership tools that is available to each and every one of us. 

First, I want to say something about leadership. I am a little tired of leadership blogs, leadership talks, leadership podcasts, leadership goals, leadership books, etc. What I am interested is people who are willing to make a difference in whatever sphere they are in, and from whatever seat they are currently sitting in. I believe leadership has been miscast and misdiagnosed and whoever is the boss, but the truth is, a leader is anyone, anywhere who is taking a stand, making a change, and making an impact. If you are willing to stand up, speak out and step up, then you are a leader. If you put your money where your mouth is, you are a leader, regardless of where you fit on the organizational chart. If you are working selflessly for the common good, you are a leader, and I want to thank you for realizing that although it may be difficult to transform the whole world, it is definitely possible for you to transform YOUR world. 

So if you fit into this category then I would like to submit something for your consideration, but first... your token Winston Churchill quote: 

I believe that LISTENING is one of GREATEST LEADERSHIP TOOLS available. I also believe, that LISTENING IS THE MOST UNDERUTILIZED TOOL IN OUR TOOLBOXES. Here's what I've learned... and trust me... you only learn this the hard way: LISTEN FIRST. If you LISTEN FIRST, you bite your tongue, and you are actively engaged then it is amazing how LISTENING FIRST always seems to open others ears. 

If you are in a position of operational leadership, meaning you have to make decisions that affect others, you are already aware of the fact that you can't make everybody happy. Ultimately, it is up to you to make a decision. So how do we move forward on a decision when we know that others are going to be upset? 

Ready for it?

If you are in the midst of making a tough decision and you know that the decision you have to make is going to directly affect your team, TRY THIS. 

Get everybody together. Lay out your current issue, and then establish these ground rules:

1) The purpose of this gathering is to make sure that everybody is going to be heard. 
2) Everybody will get a chance to speak to this issue
3) I (meaning you) will be keeping a speakers and will facilitate this discussion
4) We are committed to making sure that everybody has an opportunity to share their perspective whether or not we agree
5) Ultimately, the decision to made is MINE (yours), but I want to make sure that I have all the information before I move ahead
6) I (yup... that's you... or you may want to delegate this to an assistant) will be taking notes on this conversation so I can be sure that all of today's learning will be considered moving forward
7) Once the decision is made... the decision is made! 

Here's what you know, somebody is not going to be happy with you. This may seem like a waste of time, and I would suggest that if it is a small trivial matter like what kind of toilet paper to buy, this would be a waste of time. But when you are dealing with a significant decision that is going to affect everybody, it is important to have the courage as a leader to stand up and ensure that everybody is heard. 

Now... if you are planning to use this article against your leader, let me offer you some thoughts. Your leader has a lot on their plates. This practice is to be used at their discretion for decisions of critical importance that has wide reaching implications. You also need to be aware that this doesn't work if you are going to try and railroad your leader. This only works if everybody has the opportunity to openly and honestly share without fear of attack. Finally, this method also allows for the simple fact that your leader most likely has more information on the table than what is presented at this meeting, and quite possibly more information than the team is privy too. This means that the aim and the goal of this exercise is to allow every voice to be heard and perspective to be shared, but this also means, that regardless of the discussion the decision is still up to the leader. 

As a leader, this doesn't change the fact that you still have a tough job ahead. But, what this does is engage's your team on a deeper level, it lets them know that you care, and that their voice matters to you, and it also helps to inform you, giving you a broader field of view, directly impacting how you view this decision. 

Happy Listening - and remember, just because it's simple, doesn't mean it's easy! 

Brett Esslinger is a Husband, Dad, Son, Brother, Pastor, Speaker, Leader, Writer whose life goal is to help people unlock their potential and fulfill their life's purpose. 

Follow Brett on Twitter, Instagram &Facebook: @brettesslinger and of course over on Snapchat at: brett.esslinger 


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