Monday, June 13, 2011

Be Interested. Works Wonders

A long time ago I took a pile of personal growth courses. Most of what I learned is a blur to this day but a few ideas stuck. One of them is to be interested rather than interesting. Now many moons later, the phrase keeps cropping up in various articles, books and videos as one antidote to the dangers of narcissism, rugged individualism, self-delusion and poor decision-making.

In the context of leadership, it’s a no-brainer. Bill Taylor in a June 6, 2011 Harvard Business Review blog quoting Randy Nelson, former dean of Pixar University, puts it this way:

It’s no trick for talented people to be interesting. But, it’s a gift to be interested – interested in big problems, interested in the talents and struggles of your colleagues, interested in the enduring mission of an enterprise and in new ways of bringing that mission to life.

But how many bosses and team-mates are this way? It takes a lot of work to get outside of our own concerns and achievements to focus on another.

If you manage to be interested it’s a sign of respect for the value of another human being. Respect is something we all want. I hear this over and over again from people at the front line and up no matter what the business of an organization. When I ask people what they mean by “respect”, they invariably describe it as others listening to them, helping them with their problems and showing they care in some way.

Maybe “caring” is the message of “being interested”. It affirms us. It levels the playing field across titles and roles. It says: “You count”. Powerful.