In Your Leadership: How Do You Help Others Articulate Their Ideas? Part 1

Leadership Lesson: Be able to understand how and what it is you can draw out of other people in the form of ideas and contributions.

One of the top markers of effective leadership is the ability to harness the resources at one’s disposal. That can mean anything from the physical resources of machinery, warehouses, and factories, to the physical work of individuals and teams in companies, to the technical work of strategy execution itself.

But it also means tapping into and harnessing the unutilized portions of people’s thinking — the abstract, the conceptual, and the knowledge which don’t stand at the forefront of their mind’s work or expression. It’s not only what they present and make obvious or explicit that is important but also what they hold that they either may not be aware of or are aware of but are not ready or comfortable enough to share.

For this post, knowledge can be interpreted as the conceptual skills, tools, resources, and abilities people around us hold which can be utilized to advance the common mission and environment. It is not only the technical aspect of the work they already do, but anything else that can effectively contribute to its development and execution.

With regard to knowledge, it’s obviously important to harness the knowledge people are conscious and aware of.  It is assumed that this knowledge they already share is the reason they are involved with the mission at hand in the first place. It’s important to make the most of what each person can provide with that knowledge and skill they hold — their unique, individualized and specialized abilities and skills.

The other, deeper knowledge resources being sought here go beyond what is shared. Generally, they take three forms — partial ideas not yet vetted, unknown knowledge, and the curiosity to contribute to other ideas.

Partial Ideas, Not Yet Vetted

People may be unsure of ideas they hold, so it’s extremely important to dig deeper and help them shape those conceptual ideas. This portion of someone’s knowledge is made up of the ideas or thought processes below the façade and surface. It goes deeper than and behind what they demonstrate to, and share with, others.

These are ideas people may have with regard and in reaction to what may be going on in the environment. They’re taking in and processing information but not necessarily sharing their thoughts or opinions. For whatever reason, those opinions and thoughts have not been brought to the surface. This may be due to the person’s own preferences or because of indications in the environment that opinions can’t be shared.

Related Post: Your Leadership Wake: How Do You Listen to Others?

Unknown Knowledge

Along with knowledge we may seek in people that they felt they couldn’t share, there exists knowledge they weren’t even aware of. People may have certain capacities, abilities, or specialties leaders may consider valuable that they do not see in themselves.

This knowledge can remain dormant as it’s based on subdued experiences from the person’s past. The person holding the knowledge might not have considered the experience a learning opportunity, remaining unaware of its presence or value. Or the person may be aware of the knowledge but not feel it applies to anything in the current environment. Whatever the source of the knowledge, or the attitude of its holder toward it, the leader can seek out that information based on what he or she knows of the person, and extract the value.

Sometimes it takes another person to show us how much we already know and what we are capable of. That suppressed knowledge is value waiting to be unwrapped and unleashed. This is part of a leader’s responsibility — that they work to make others around them better, often through tools they already held.

Curiosity to Contribute

The value someone can contribute is not limited to these two categories of undisclosed knowledge above. It is also reflected in what the person is curious about and wants to learn. The desire and curiosity to learn for the future is just as powerful a commodity among workers as the skills they hold today.

This curiosity – the ability or self-awareness to continue learning, being open to new ideas, and expanding one’s mindset – should be initially sought in the interview phase. It’s imperative that organizations seek and understand how much each person can contribute from this area when brought into the fold. After the invitation to join the mission, the organization should then actively pursue and harness that curiosity.

So, when it comes to what other people can provide, we need to be curious enough to dig deeper than what we see on the surface in each other’s facades. There is so much more that is available than what is provided in day-to-day interactions.

(Along with helping others seek out their untapped resources, this also goes for you in your own understanding of self, in your own abilities and value.)

Granted, some people may be more inclined to open up about themselves and contribute more than others. This is an individual preference. It falls upon everyone involved to understand people’s preferences, so that an organization and each individual can meet each other’s needs by exchanging all forms of resources, both those which are apparent and those which are not.

For greater effectiveness, that depth of understanding should go both ways, so that individuals reciprocally challenge their organization’s current approach, strategy, and culture, reaching in for a deeper quality of ability.

How much might companies be leaving on the table because they are not tapping into these different pockets of “undisclosed” knowledge?

Now that you understand the general levels where ideas may exist in those you work with, what will you do?

How will you tap into the innumerous ideas possibly available to you?

Part 2 of this post provides some beginning steps to take to harness that undisclosed knowledge.

Continue to Part 2

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