We are in a time when ideas that have worked in the past and answers that used to be adequate too often are not enough. The conditions and expectations to which we were accustomed have changed. Assumptions on which we could rely no longer apply. Even more bewildering, we do not necessarily have time to conduct lengthy studies and detailed analysis to determine the best ways to proceed.
These are times when we need fresh ideas and novel answers that respond to where we are today. As leaders, we may think that generating these ideas and finding the right answers is our responsibility. After all, isn’t that what leaders are supposed to do? Not necessarily and not always.
As counterintuitive as it might seem, some of the best ideas and answers may be buried within our organization waiting to be unearthed. Rather than press ourselves and our immediate team to generate and present every solution right now, we may learn more and gain the best ideas by just listening.
Listening is a powerful force. It conveys respect for the people to whom we are willing to listen. We can learn first-hand the pain points and stumbling blocks people are experiencing. And, we gain access to their perspectives and passions that can uncover new ideas and surprising answers. However, we need to take the time and create the conditions that encourage people to share, risk, and dream. It helps if we are continually aware that we seldom learn by talking.
It can be surprising to learn the level of caring, thought, and commitment people bring to the work and mission we share. Teachers, students, parents, community members, and other stakeholders can be valuable resources right now. They may just need to be asked—and listened to.