Have you ever felt like your ideas don’t matter or you are not being heard?
Do you dismiss other people's ideas out of hand?
I was recently visiting family in remote South Australia on a property that had not mobile coverage (AT ALL!) and only 4GB of internet for 4 people for one month. Shopping is a major expedition to the nearest town 300 kms away once a month which meant meals had to be planned and when you ran out of something you ran out and that was that. No nicking down to the corner shop to get an icecream on a whim!!
Because of this – make or fix is an essential (no hardware store) and the quintessential Australian saying that “necessity is the mother of invention” is a daily truth.
So…. Getting into the swing of back to basics I decide to make my favourite carrot cake for morning tea. Improvising in the kitchen is something that I am used to as I rarely cook to a recipe and for the fancy stuff rarely have ALL the ingredients needed to follow the recipes. All was going well until I got to the icing. Now this is literally the icing on this cake! Carrot cake with Philadelphia cheese and lemon icing .. the best!
Into the fridge …. No philly cheese … Now what!
I know, I will try and make it with Greek Yoghurt instead I only need 50 grams. This I thought was a good plan and I was merrily going about doing this with three other women and my son in the kitchen bantering away (no TV either) that evening.
As I started the icing, my mouth was salivating in advance as I could smell the freshly cooked cake and was anticipating the delight when I had iced it and it would be ready for the next day’s morning tea.
As I started mixing a phenomenon happened, the more icing sugar I put into the yoghurt the runnier the icing got!! And I gradually got more anxious and cranky because:
1. The icing was just not happening,
2. I was wasting good ingredients that were not easy to come by, and
3. My ego wanted to make the perfect cake!
Finally I said in frustration “This is NOT working and no icing for the cake!!” as I stirred furiously.
I got back a barrage of great ideas! “Try more icing sugar”, “try putting it in the fridge” , “try this try that”, “we could get more Philadelphia cheese in 2 days’ time and we could make it on the road”. Everyone was brainstorming ideas to get me out of the proverbial pickle!
I stomped my feet and said “NO, ...... yoghurt doesn’t work, I am NOT making this tomorrow, It won’t get better in the fridge. No No No! I am throwing it out, we will have cake with no icing” and into the bin the icing went. The only man in the room got up and left, he “couldn’t get a word in edgeways”, everyone else sat in stunned silence for a bit whilst I went to another room to calm down.
In hindsight – a couple of things here –
1. Later I explained to the others that I was just stating my frustration out loud and didn’t really need or want anyone to come to my rescue with a solution;
2. In the heat of the moment I may have over reacted. I could have validated their input by acknowledging the ideas. The response could have gone like this “Hey. Thanks for all your great ideas AND I really just want to finish the cake right now and not be bothered with it tomorrow”;
3. My ego was over shadowing the possibility of working with people to find a solution.
Although the kitchen and cake making are a far cry from the workplace the relationship dynamics can draw some parallels.
Do you validate people by listening and acknowledging ideas or do you dismiss then out of hand?
In that moment of stunned silence after I “spat the dummy” I could feel the energy of the group. “She is not listening to me, my ideas don’t’ matter, I feel like I am not being heard”, “wow she is over reacting!”…. And as for the man of the house, he just withdrew all together (albeit to a place where he could read in peace and let us sort ourselves out).
Does this happen to you in the workplace?
How many times have you been to a meeting and your ideas have been dismissed out of hand or not acknowledged or worse still you have not even said them because you knew you wouldn’t be listened to?
How does this make you feel?
Many people stop participating. They are thinking “don’t ask me if you are not willing to listen to what I have to say”, and tend to withdraw from the process.
How many times have YOU dismissed someone’s thoughts, ideas, feelings out of hand?
Validating and acknowledging is especially important in times of change. In order to facilitate change, change managers know that real cultural change is successful when people have bought into the process, participate fully and feel acknowledged.
Validate, Validate, Validate.
Listen to and acknowledge all ideas, concerns and comments. This says to the person “I hear you”, “Your ideas and input matter”. Of course, you don’t have to put all of them into action and you may even get that one idea from the most unexpected source that is the game changer in your workplace.
We can all let our ego’s get in the way at times and not hear other people’s ideas AND we have all had times when our ideas are not being heard.
Which one will you strive to be in relationship with others at work and at home?
I challenge you to take notice and look out for the moment you choose to close off to other people’s ideas.
Did you really get the outcome you wanted or could you do it a better way?
Do you have a way of capturing ideas in your workplace?
What happened to the cake you ask?
We enjoyed it the next day with a cuppa made from the billy.
My passions are nature, people, and building cultures of cooperation, harmony, sharing and reverence for life. I enjoy working with people to help them understand themselves and others so they can reach their full potential in life.