Drop Your Information Filters to Boost Engagement with Fellow Employees
“ A great number of people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices. ”
— William James
Do you truly keep an open mind when trying to engage with fellow employees (of any level)? Or do you retain filters that categorize and judge information so that it conforms to what you want (or think you need) to hear?
Do you even realize you have these filters?
This is important: People put filters up to speed the process of absorbing and filing information they receive, but it can short-circuit understanding and learning if the filters are too numerous and rigorous. As a leader, you want to open your mind permanently to accepting the truth inherent in each situation that you encounter on the job. Doing so really builds trust and engagement, and encourages even more truth-seeking and sharing.
Examples of unproductive filters:
- A sales manager gets ready to listen to explanations from a salesperson about why certain accounts haven’t been landed, but already slaps an “Excuses” label on what he is about to hear, and has his or her prescription for fixing the problem already lined up. In the meantime, the salesperson has truly run up against some difficult characters or tough competitors, and needs more creative solutions than he has been allowed to use to this point.
- An operations manager has had issues with a line supervisor “crying wolf” too many times about why his line runs more slowly than others. Suddenly the latest incident is serious, and the manager is slow to understand the gravity because his internal filter initially discounts the severity of the problem.
- Conversely, the line supervisor played fast and loose with the truth over time to protect himself from the results of his poor team managementbecause he assumed there would be negative repercussions. So he set himself up for a real crisis when he needed immediate management support to solve a serious problem.
In each case, the leader must separate the event from the person involved, and focus on reacting to the event: Event + Response = Outcome (E+R=O), as we teach our clients. Dealing with the personnel issues must be a separate and equally constructive project.
In the vast majority of cases you will encounter on the job,the truth might “hurt” short-term but usually proves beneficial long-term. Adopting the mindset that pursuing and sharing the truth in all cases (and agreeing not to shoot the messenger when the truth contravenes what everyone wants) really builds trust and unleashes productivity in each employee.