Two people can look at the same situation at the same time yet still see different things. For this reason, among many, humans are endlessly fascinating to me.
No matter how hard I try I will never ever perfect the art and skill of leadership. I am trying harder and harder to listen, really listen and be as objective as often as I can. But I have so much further to go. This became quite apparent to me following a recent meeting I enjoyed.
For business purposes I am interested in learning more about the wonderful country of Mexico. One great way to learn is to immerse oneself in the culture - meet people of all walks of life, have long discussions, share thoughts and opinions, ask the same questions to different people... One person I had the pleasure of spending some time with was the General Manager of Google Mexico.
I learned a great deal from living in Canada and the US and my 16 years visiting and working in many countries during my years with ING Group. However, the GM of Google Mexico has lived in 7 countries - not visited, not worked in, lived!
I was amazed with his complete objectivity as we discussed Mexico, and his ability to compare with absolutely no judgments the various countries he has lived in. I found his comparisons and perspectives quite amazing to listen to. I'm certain that at times my mouth was agape with interest.
As I've discussed Mexico with many business leaders before and after this visit I am amazed how people with far less information and objectivity have what sound to be firm opinions. To be honest I see this more often than not - that people have recommendations before having the perspective, experience or objectivity that would merit any opinion.
In business, we need to be decisive. We don't have the luxury to listen and research endlessly. However, we must acknowledge that our personal opinions are subjected to unconscious biases and more than likely completely wrong. So we ought to balance our subjective perspectives filled with emotional preconceptions with the objective ones that are based on facts.
This is why I'm committed to investing my time to being a better listener, trying to suspend my biases and exploring the world with as much objectivity as I can. Maybe the best way to put it is to borrow from the Greek philosopher Epictetus who said: "We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak."