A New Filter (Part 2 of 2)

In a previous post, we talked about how leaders hear voices. No, not those kinds of voices. That’s an entirely different topic. We’re talking about the voices of influence we all hear.

We hear voices from people we know, from strangers, and from our own heads. The voices convey a variety of things . . . complaints, input, constructive criticism, information, encouragement, feedback, etc. The voices don’t go away, and that’s okay. To properly manage them, we need the right kind of filter.

How do you filter the many voices? It’s a question most of us haven’t considered and answered in a strategic way. Therefore, it’s a part of our leadership that needs attention.

We need a filter that acknowledges our relationships to the different voices while also being objective and strategic. A filter that helps us listen to the right voices at the right time and brings clarity to what the voices are really saying to us.

Let’s try a new filter. Try it for a season and see if it helps you make better decisions and be a better leader. When a voice speaks into your world, filter it with this question:

Is this a preference, a practice, or a principle?

A Preference

If we’re honest, the vast majority of the voices we hear, including our own, are just personal preferences. Of course, the voices believe they’re saying something far greater than an opinion. Personal preferences are usually emotional responses to something we like or don’t like.

There is no way for a leader to respond to everyone’s preference. It’s not wise to try to do so. So how should you respond?

  • Listen respectfully.
  • Explain how you do things in your organization that don’t match your own personal preferences.
  • Look for trends. If you are hearing a lot of the same preferences, you may need to respond.

A Practice

A practice is how you, the leader, have chosen to do something in your organization. It’s an agreed-upon way of doing something. When a voice speaks up about a practice, it’s usually not an issue of right versus wrong. It’s an issue of differences. Of course, there are multiple ways to do things. How should you respond?

  • Listen respectfully.
  • Use this as an opportunity to cast vision for why you’ve chosen to do it the way you do it.
  • Be open to learning new ways of doing something.

Practices do change, but usually only after much evaluation and planning. It is not wise to simply change a practice in response to a voice. Typically, the practice is not something you’d change, as you believe it helps you fulfill your mission.

A Principle

A principle is a basic truth. There are inevitable consequences for applying it and not applying it. It will be a truth whether you agree with it or not. Principles are often the “why” behind what you’re doing.

Most voices you hear will speak about a preference or a practice. But a voice may bring up a principle. How should you respond?

  • Listen respectfully.
  • If you’re violating a principle, be openhanded enough to admit it and change.
  • If you’re upholding a principle, help the person see the consequences of violating it.

As you apply this filter, it will help you understand what to do next. How closely do you pay attention to the voice? Do you save it for later? Do you disregard it? Do you respond immediately? Determining whether the voice is a preference, practice, or principle will positively influence your next move and your leadership.