By Ariana Friedlander
Back in the day when in-person conferences were still a thing, I recall an instance where I was sitting in my chair during a session feeling bored and listless. My thoughts wandered down a rabbit hole, "I've already heard this. They aren't saying anything new. There's nothing for me to learn here. Everything they're sharing I already know."
This is a common experience. We want to hear something new, something different. We want to be given the secrets of the universe, served on a silver platter and complete with a step-by-step instruction manual. We don't want to be told something we've already heard before.
Perhaps there's some primal reason we fancy new ideas over ones we've already heard. Or, maybe it's a cultural value best represented in the rapid advancement of technology where a new iPhone complete with better features gets released with the predictability of the changing seasons. There's an underlying assumption in our tech-savvy society that new is always better.
Either way, I know from experience that such an attitude hinders true learning and growth. Oddly we exude an air of pride when we already "know the answer" as if our high school math teacher will be walking up after the conference handing out an A+. But we aren't in school anymore, there isn't a test, and knowing isn't doing.
Instead, that air of pride reeks of pompous over-confidence. There's a chance no one will call you out to your face, but reality will not be so forgiving. This, I know from experience!
When I sat in the audience at that conference, I heard things I had heard before. But this time, I realized something helpful, I had changed. It's as though all of my growth in the last few years plugged up holes in my mind that had created a sieve and I was able to shift my perspective so these "same old" ideas took on new meaning. I was listening with curiosity and openness, and as a result, I was rewarded with valuable new insights.
Being open in this way is an essential skill for a leader to succeed in the 21st century. We don't need leaders who "have all the answers" figured out. We need leaders that embrace a beginner's mindset and are therefore open to influence. We need leaders that are humble enough to listen deeply to something they've "heard before" and discerning enough to regulate their neurochemistry in the moment. We need leaders that have the clarity and commitment to staying true to their vision while skillfully engaging others in making it come true.
So, if you're tired of hearing the same old thing over and over again, perhaps it's time you changed how you listened!