Posted by: Bill von Achen | August 5, 2011

How Not to Drown Out the Opinion of Others

As companies expand beyond their entrepreneurial roots, effective leaders must break out of the habit of making all of the decisions, and find ways to share leadership with the other talented people they’ve hired. But that’s tough to do, especially when you’ve called the shots from the beginning. And helping others to get comfortable with expressing their own views, particularly when those views are different from yours, can be tricky.

In a recent interview with the New York Times, Alan Trefler, founder and chief executive of Pegasystems, shared his secret for ensuring that he hears the opinions and ideas held by the members of his company’s leadership team.

“It’s only as the company grew that I began to realize that I needed to change some of the ways I managed,” says Trefler. “Listening better was something that required some conscious thought and discipline. I also had to make sure that my tendency to have strong opinions was not drowning out the opinions of others.”

“The way I handled that was to start formalizing the idea that it’s important for everybody to have opinions,” Trefler continues. “As a company grows, you have more capacity to have opinions, and you need to make sure that you’re fostering that or you’re not really getting real value.”

Trefler’s solution? “I tell everybody that it’s their job to have an informed opinion. And, by the way, it had better not be the same opinion as everyone else’s. And you obviously need to be able to listen if you’re going to actually hear those opinions.”

You can read the complete text of the Times’ interview with Trefler by going to our Resources page at, and clicking on the first link under “Leadership.”

What’s your approach for fostering the sharing of ideas and opinions among the members of your team? What steps do you take to ensure that your voice doesn’t drown out those of others? Share your thoughts and ideas here. Thanks!

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