We often use the example of a glass and water as an analogy to illustrate our position on whether or not someone is an optimist of a pessimist depending upon whether they see the glass as half full or half empty. There is, however, another analogy we can use involving a glass and water that digs a little deeper into the how successful someone is at assimilating new information—and how they can be expected to respond when things really heat up. It goes something like this: a full glass cannot accept anything new– whereas an empty glass can. A person can be said to be either empty or full depending upon how certain they are about the nature of things.
If we are full of ideas and preconceptions on how things should be, if we’re ‘up to the brim’ with concrete positions, if we already know about something before we even understand what it is, then we’re probably not able to accept new and different information that is necessary to fully operate within the dynamics of today’s business environment. In order to become a successful and holistic Team Leader, it requires an innate ability to shift perspectives and see things from a variety of positions in order to fully understand and appreciate a situation.
Methodologies and processes are frameworks that allow us to manage information but only to the extent that we view this information in the proper context. Context, then, becomes the functional dynamic that is driven by our innate perspective on how things are. An open mind and the ability to fully understand a situation, a person’s perspective or even a set of circumstances, requires the ability to listen–fully present and open, empty of mental chatter and ideas about what we already know (or think we know) and wholly without the filters imposed by preconceptions.
This is not to say we don’t use what we know. Our experiential understanding, the kind of real knowledge that good leaders use to make decisions, is always present and can be called upon at a moment’s notice to help with a situation. It doesn’t, however, have to get in the way of what’s happening right now.
The extent to which we can empty ourselves may mean the difference between being someone who is just getting by with understanding only part of the information available and someone who truly excels in their role as Leader by virtue of how easily they can accept and incorporate new information into their repertoire. So is an empty glass better than a full one? You tell me.