What is undefended openness? I first came across this term several years ago while reading Gay Hendricks’ The Big Leap. Hendricks wrote that “It is part of my life’s mission to help people go the last distance to claim their full potential.” (p. 2) He noted that “To get to that level of undefended openness to learning, we have to practice as diligently as a master skier or a master cellist.” (p. 2) So to tap into all of our potential, we must engage in undefended openness.
And what does that look like? Hendricks defined it for us: “That skill is to identify and transcend our upper limit, wherever and whenever we encounter it.” (p. 2) And what is our upper limit? It is the ceiling we place on our potential. It is the limitations we argue in favor of whenever we go out to meet the world.
As I made the journey to claim the potential others clearly saw in me, I begin to practice undefended openness. And here is what that looks like – in almost every important conversation (with others or just myself), meeting, conference or event, I ask these things:
1. What am I missing? (or what are we missing)
2. Is there anything we need to let go of that we are protecting?
3. Is there a white elephant in the room we aren’t addressing? (can also be a sacred cow no one is willing to identify)
4. What are we pretending not to know here?
5. Can you give me the last 10% of that feedback? (Most of us are willing to offer up the first 90% of a conversation or feedback but won’t give the last 10% because it might be painful, emotional, or touchy in some other way so no one wants to go there. So ask for it. Make people comfortable giving that to you.)
6. If we make these changes, what are we losing? How do we best address that loss so we can move on?
7. If we are to look at this situation in light of our company mission, vision and values, what choice makes the most sense and aligns with who we are?
8. Are these all the brutal facts? (Get to reality by asking for it!)
It is not enough just to ask these questions. Champions are willing to hear the answers, listen intently, process the information and take action accordingly. If you can do this, without letting your own emotions dictate the moment, you will have found your place of undefended openness and your journey to greatness just got easier!
Busy dropping my defenses and looking for the openness,