hippo 2In the past, those at the top often had the best information, and hopefully the skills and experience to make smart decisions.  Seniority counted and the boss was accustomed to having his (it was usually a man) view trump those of others in the room.

But in a world were ideas and insights can come from anywhere and anybody, putting particular weight on the senior person’s opinion is a big mistake. As google say in internal meetings “Watch out for the HiPPO” where HiPPO stands for the Highest Paid Person’s Opinion. That opinion may be spot on, but it’s just as likely to be someone else’s contribution, or a number of contributions that turns up the killer idea.

But when many of us have had 25 years of conditioning of working in a particular way, it’s easy to forget this. I’ve heard countless stories of leaders who have fallen foul of this legacy thinking, and as a result have missed key insights and opportunities.

So what if you are the HiPPO in a meeting?  How can you ensure the best ideas are created and heard? Here are a few things to consider:

  • Leave your ego behind
  • Ask, listen, and play back others ideas in a non-judgemental way
  • Don’t expect the largest share of voice
  • Use your experience to facilitate discussions. For example, find links, ask for similarities and differences in ideas and opinions on the table
  • Explore others’ ideas, don’t just defend your own. Ask lots of open questions.

Clearly these behaviours have always been effective, but remembering to use them consistently stops you falling foul of the HiPPO trap.

A final thought – even if the HiPPO is the killer idea, sometimes the perfect solution might not be the most effective, when compared to the ‘almost perfect’ put in place by someone who is really motivated by their own idea.

Imagine someone coming to you with a way of doing things – it’s pretty good – say 90% perfect and they are 100% motivated to get on with this plan.  You (the HiPPO) listen and think of another way that is 100% perfect. You tell them your perfect plan, and they agree to implement but now it’s not their idea.  They get on with it, but with only half the motivation they had.

In this simple scenario, it’s probably better to have the 90% idea enthusiastically delivered, rather than the perfect one delivered half heartedly.  People support what they create.

I’d love to hear your thought and experiences of HiPPOs getting it wrong (and right!) in your teams and organisations.

If you’d like to inspire and enable your leaders to better engage their teams by embracing the future of work, then call Simon on 020 3488 0464 or email simon@simonwalker.org

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