Whenever I enter the room to present a new workshop I always wonder what the participants will be like. Will they be happy to be there and be interested in learning new ideas? Are they being forced to attend because of an area that their boss thinks needs improving? Will they share their opinions and be honest about what they are feeling? Will I make a difference in their professional lives? As my presentations evolve, I quickly gain insights and answers to all these questions.
Similar to many of my programs, the participants of one of my presentations this past week came from a very technical area. They arrived dressed very professionally with uncertain looks on their faces. I could tell right away that these attendees were not completely sold on what they were invited to join. They were punctual as they carefully selected their “perfect” seat. I prepared myself for any outcome, hoping I could get them on board quickly so they would see how much they would gain.
I opened up by sharing how thrilled I was to meet them and how I understand the challenges they were facing. A few eyes began to open up wider. Then to help them feel more comfortable I asked each of them to tell us about themselves briefly and answer some questions about leaders in their lives. And that’s when the light bulbs turned on. And from that point on these young leaders were ready to play ball and open their minds.
Here are five tactics to stretch your leadership mind:
1. Recognize that you don’t know it all
For many of us, walking into a workshop or even a new environment can feel uncomfortable. We may feel that something is missing in our background or skill set that needs upgrading. But instead of thinking of the experience as being insufficient, reframe your leadership mind and approach the situation as a great opportunity to add to your toolbox. The participants in my program began to see that their technical skills would only get them so far and they needed some critical human and conceptual skills to lead.
2. Become a curious cat
Children are innately curious and that leads to great discovery and growth. One sure-fire way to expand your leadership mind is to commit to being an explorer of new ideas and experiences. The thing with being curious is that it often leads us to untapped resources within each of us. During the program, the attendees started asking more questions about how they could incorporate these new leadership skills into their daily routines.
3. Step out of your comfort zone
We all can get stuck in our routines because they feel comfortable and familiar. Never venturing out will keep our leadership minds stagnant and unable to be open to new suggestions or processes. Workshops can be a great place to try out a different side of us. One individual who arrived very shy jumped right into a role-play and had so much fun letting out her voice.
4. Challenge your preconceived notions
To really allow our leadership minds to take in new concepts and ideas we must be willing to not limit ourselves in our thinking. It may come quickly or it may take a while but we grow as leaders when we:
- Confront our old routines and thought processes
- Are willing to try new approaches
- Dump the assumption-“My way is the only way”
- Identify the blind spots that may be stopping us
5. Listen to grow
During my interactive programs, taking the attitude that everyone has something important to contribute and is worth listening to can lead to great insights. The participants from this workshop listened carefully to one another with respect and intention. In the end, these leaders were eager to stretch their leadership minds.
How have you stretched your leadership mind?