Growing up in family surroundings is something we are (almost all) quite aware of when it comes to listening to parents and other family members.
I remember clearly that I had been growing a pretty deaf ear to things my mum or dad said to me to get me out of danger or into something good: “Alex, don’t run with that stick in your hand! You can fall and poke out your eye!” (Yes, really.) “Baby, don’t watch too much TV, rather read a book!” “Come on kid, tidy up your room!” “My goodness, don’t touch that knife!”
Guess what, of course, I did the exact opposite: I ran with that stick in my hand, I – more or less secretly – watched late-night-shows, I did not put away my cars and Lego and of course I wanted to know how it felt to use a knife like an adult to cut their meals.
Thank God, nothing happened. I still have both eyes, I am not absolutely dumbed-down by watching that sacred TV and nowadays you would say I have cleaning OCD, and I love to sharpen knives and how it feels like when they cut properly through all kinds of food.
Sure enough, my parents were not wrong. They wanted to make the best of my education. They wanted me to be a good kid, thus an adult, and to know my boundaries in the evolution of growing up. The only problem was, I actually did not really listen to them (sounds familiar, eh?).
However, I did listen to my friends’ parents, I listened to the advice in the – oh so bad – TV and I learned from role models I have chosen myself. It is wonderful if you count yourself in the minority to have had your parents as role models, most people have others. Especially as a kid, you don’t value what your parents do for you. It isn’t until you grow up that you then understand and appreciate the advice they were providing.
Why do we value the perspective of a stranger?
The secret is that most people listen to others that don’t belong in their circle of close people. As my mentor, Darren Hardy calls it, “The Law of Familiarity.” Somebody else’s advice is given more value in their mind since they seem like the more trustworthy perspective of “the other”. I believe that we judge them to be right unless or until they are proven wrong. And usually, this happens not very often since it is the word of the stranger. We don’t like to hear that, especially as a parent, but don’t worry – we ALL go through this every once in a while. As a child and as an adult. In your home and at work.
Think about the following scenarios:
Your car’s brakes need to be fixed. A friend of yours says he or she can do it after a lot of experience since he or she grew up in the countryside and repairing things for them is second nature. Would you trust your friend fixing your brakes? Or would you rather pay money to have them repaired by a mechanic?
Or at work – you have to write an email to a client who is not committed to a certain timeline with regards to feedback. Your colleague who you spend the most time with, going for coffee and usually having lunch with catches a glimpse of your message and mentions how rude and pushy you wrote this email.
You probably would say, no, it is just about the need to tell the client that you both have to come to a point concerning a specific topic to continue the process. Right?
Now, imagine that you want a colleague from another department, who you don’t see that often and who you actually don’t know other than from several company events, to look through your email to the client to see if you may have forgotten something with regards to this other department.
And surprisingly this person gives a comment that you should change your wording since it seems to be written very rudely and pushy. Would you change it? I bet you would.
The “Others” are right before proven wrong
For organizational structures the fact of not being listened to when we are very close should bring one thing into mind:
An exchange between less connected company members is good advice to keep a neutral eye on things that matter. Accountability is the engine of providing results to others. Asking for advice in different circles (other departments, other branches or people you are not directly working with, etc.) is never a bad idea to get another opinion. People listen to others, as long as those others are not proven wrong.
Incorporating this perspective of others can add more value to an overall confirmation and unanimity of the matter.
It is OK to not be listened to
This is what we have to understand when it comes to everything in life. In our personal lives and in business. People would rather listen to others who are not close than to the ones they even love. They trust the judgement of a stranger as a neutral entity over familiarity.
And that is OK. For all of us. We appreciate to hear what people we love have to say. And we trust their judgement about us. They usually are right with their opinion of us when they know us better than anyone else. Nevertheless, it is important to get some advice from an outside, neutral person with perspectives that open up the way we look at something which is important to us. It might just prove that our loved ones are right, or that the colleague who we spend the most time with is not wrong.
>> How would you, as a leader, bring in the perspective of a stranger with regard to efficiency in your organization? Let me know.