You Don’t Have a Better Idea!
I asked my 82 years old mentor and business partner, Lenny Ravich, to help me with the preparation for my keynote for Turkish Airlines. He was happy to help. When he told me that he will take a bus from the doctor to meet me at a cafe, I felt that I should take care of him. Walking far is painful for Lenny because of his back. The right thing to do was to drive and pick him up from the doctor to the cafe. So I said: “Lenny, I have a Better Idea.”
Before I could share my idea coming from a good intention, he raised his voice with anger:
“Avi, You don’t have a better idea! You have an idea! ”
How often do we express ourselves in ways that may put people down, even when we mean well? How often do we become defensive and upset when other people seem to discount our ideas?
How do you communicate your “better ideas?” How do you react when other people (especially peers or bosses) claim that they have a “better idea?”
Lenny was right. I felt like an ass (hence the photo) and I apologized. A good intention is not an excuse to make other people feel inferior.
When people feelings are hurt, not only can they become defensive, they can develop resistance that blocks your “better ideas” thereafter. Moreover, the negative feeling they experience may subconsciously affect their willingness to share other ideas because of fear of rejection and humiliation.
“The trick to having good ideas is not to sit around in glorious isolation and try to think big thoughts. The trick is to get more parts on the table.” ~ Steven Johnson, Author of Where Good Ideas Come From
As a leader, are your words and ideas encouraging other people to keep sharing their ideas? Do you create a safe environment where ideas can collide to create new possibilities? Do you cultivate a positive space where people feel free to share their most ridiculous and audacious ideas?
I am glad that Lenny lost his cool and raised his voice at me. This shock had created an everlasting memory to help me be more respectful when I come up with my next “better” ideas.
You can read more in the chapter “The Four Yess a Butt and a No” in my forthcoming book.