To be sure, with authority comes responsibility. Usually, a LOT of responsibility. Time begins to feel like a constraint rather than an opportunity. So, we begin shielding ourselves from the very people and information and feedback we most need.
To resist the Authority Paradox, here are some habits to build into our lives/work:
- Ask questions directly of the customers/students/front-line employees frequently, then LISTEN.
- Walk the buildings. Make regular, on-site visits to see how the work is going, and how it is being conducted.
- Admit when we "don't know." Then, find out what we "don't know." Then, follow up by getting back to the person(s) who prompted our don't-know-moment in the first place.
- Make it safe for others to dissent, to debate, to disagree, to dialogue. Otherwise, we'll always and only get sugarcoated versions of truth.
- Stay focused on the individual development of each team member. Organizational improvement will follow.
- ALWAYS thank others - for their time, for their effort, for their thinking, for their feedback.
Creating a protective shield from critical feedback is like decorating our own prison cell, and getting comfortable in those trappings.