At Confused.com, two principles that sit high up on the senior management team’s agenda are open doors and open minds.
We operate an ‘open-door’ policy amongst staff. Before the pandemic made us a remote-led business, this was implemented very literally. We would rotate our desks to sit amongst the different teams, so we were fully accessible to all of our colleagues, picking up on new ideas and new ways of seeing our business. The policy extended to an open invite for any staff member to come along to our daily, morning management team meetings. They could use us as a sounding board for an idea, propose a solution to a problem or simply listen in.
As for open minds, we make it well known that we’re always available to hear out any idea or insight that a staff member might have – no matter how busy we are, or how crazy they may think it sounds. Why? Because firstly, if we start shutting people down, we might miss something golden. But more importantly, having a platform where we can share our views develops our growth mindset – which can only lead to better things in business.
I’m sure many people have increasingly heard the terms ‘growth mindset’ and ‘the infinite game’ in recent years. If not, they are worth looking into. A growth mindset is developed through testing and sharing ideas, embracing input and feedback from others and from tackling new challenges, even when the path to success isn’t straightforward. In other words, being open to continuous learning and to continuous development. I was excited to see that schools have started teaching this mindset and I think it can be just as powerful for us adults.
Business is often used as an example of the ‘infinite game’. You have never really won or lost (though you might be ahead or behind for a while), there’s always a tomorrow. This can be particularly useful if you’re enjoying some success – there’s no place for complacency in business and it is hard to be complacent when you know the game carries on. There is always more to learn, and always change required to succeed in the future.
When people are encouraged to develop their skills without the risk of it being seen as a weakness, to ask seemingly obvious questions and to experiment with their ideas without having to guarantee success, we create an environment that is more likely to find better ways of working, more likely to make the most of our colleagues’ innate talent and more likely to innovate towards better services.
While the business can’t be dismissive, neither should the individual. If you have a strong view – an insight, an idea, an observation – you should share it. If there is one thing I’m glad to have done in my career – one thing that has helped me grow – it is in sharing strong ideas when I felt them burning away at me.
There have been times when well-meaning colleagues have advised against it. “The CEO won’t like that idea”, “The board won’t agree with that view” etc. I can picture the times I’ve pressed on anyway and seen eyes light up. Those moments – and more importantly what they led to – are more than worth the times when the audience looked at me like I had landed from Mars… and left me wondering why I didn’t listen to that well-meaning colleague after all!
Despite being more experienced in my field now than I was, say, ten years ago, my passion for hearing colleagues’ views and ideas has gone up, not down. Fresh insights and different views are the fuel you need to grow; personally, and professionally. I might not always agree, but if it makes
me question myself or what we’re doing as a company, I hugely appreciate that person investing the mental effort to come up with it and taking the time to share.
Our views and our ideas are what make us stand out, what develop us as people and as experts in our fields. That’s not to say that all ideas are created equally, or that sometimes we might put our point across poorly – but we can’t go silent.
So, companies can certainly ease that process by creating a non-judgemental, open environment but also, we can take responsibility ourselves when it comes to speaking up and having the confidence to share our views.
Now that we’re in a remote-led environment, we have to find new ways to let our colleagues share their ideas and challenges, new ways to make sure they can ‘doorstep’ us with tricky questions at the coffee machine. And we need to make sure that the efficiency some companies have seen from remote working doesn’t prevent new views, new insights and new ideas from reaching the people that need them the most.
Our environment may well have changed but we will still find ways to keep doors and minds open.