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Collaboration Killer: The Illusion of Inclusion

Team model

"Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers."

If you're a leader, you've heard a version of this quote a million times. And it has been (properly) drilled into your head that working cross-boundary is essential to the development and growth of a successful business. It’s all true. There is great reason that this quote, or some version therein, is tossed around on twitter like the latest diagnosis of Charlie Sheen's epic plunge into absurdity.

However, there is a key element to this that is too often overlooked. And that is, if you want true collaboration and you want to wholly embody mindful leadership, then when you ask those questions, you must REALLY ask. And then REALLY listen.

Too often, leaders play the role by going through the motions – they hold meetings to gather feedback or confer one on one – yet it is painfully aware that he or she wasn't really looking for our input. Our opinions and perspectives didn't matter at all. Instead, they were simply looking for agreement or had already made their decision and, predictably, engagement starts to tank. No matter how convincing you may think you are, people can spot the "illusion of inclusion" from a 1,000 yards away.

If you find yourself responding to feedback with "yeah, but…" or automated agreement (i.e., the dreaded "corporate nod") seeps into your meetings then those are sure signs that you have made being right more important than making the best decision for your company. If that is the case, take a step back, examine your resistance, and reengage when you REALLY want to know.


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