Friday, November 26, 2010

Openness and Teachability

For the past few days I have been thinking alot about trust as I read this excellent book (look for a later review). Part of being trustworthy (and trusting yourself) is having integrity. The author of the book I'm reading cites this story and says there are three things necessary for integrity to grow:

1. Make and keep commitments to yourself.
2. Stand for something.
3. Be open.

I'm thinking alot about the last one. Being open is synonymous with being teachable - are you truly humble and courageous enough to acknowledge that there are things you don't know?

This past summer I was amused by a little contest between my brother Tim and my son Riker. We were at Tim's cabin, sitting around the campfire when a bat flew by. Tim suggested that he and Riker have a contest (best of 5 questions wins) to see who knew more about bats. Tim had just watched a TV program about a certain kind of bat so he thought it would be pretty easy. Tim asked the first question and was surprised when Riker knew it. Then Riker stumped Tim. And when Tim asked the next question, Riker got it correct again. Finally, Tim in his exasperation asked Riker if knew the kind of bat that can fly over 100km an hour. Riker didn't know. "Ha, I got you," said my brother triumphantly, "the answer is Batman!" Needless to say my brother wasn't ready or willing to be taught by an 8 year old (just like I'm often not) but being open is an attitude that is not reserved for when we are around obvious experts. Billy Graham is famous for asking other people "Maybe you could teach me something about preaching better?" True humility is open and teachable - toward anyone.

If I am honest, brutally honest with myself, I'd say that my openness/teachability waxes and wanes dramatically. Sometimes I'm quite open to what others (friends, family, clients, authors) have to say and other times I'm not. Sometimes I'm not really listening to people, I'm just waiting so I can give my retort or get in my thoughts. Have you ever been in a "discussion" where it's just people taking turns sharing what they know but they aren't really interacting and learning? It's sad really. So, how does one evaluate one's openness? Steven M. R. Covey suggests a few questions to ask yourself:

-Do I believe that the way I see the world is totally accurate and complete - or am I honestly willing to listen and consider new viewpoints and ideas?

-Do I seriously consider differing points of view (from a boss, direct report, team member, spouse, or child), and am I willing to be influenced by them?

-Do I believe there may be principles that I have not yet discovered? Am I determined to live in harmony with them, even if it means developing new thinking patterns and habits?

-Do I value - and am I involved in - continual learning?

I'm going to try and review these questions every time I start "coasting" in my openness!

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