Small Business Leadership and Sales Blog

Small Business Leadership: A Tete Dur

Posted by Marvin LeBlanc

Hello Marvelous People:  

Today we have a guest blog post from Southern Louisiana's own Jennifer Ledet.  It is a good one so all of you small business leaders out there take note. small biz

Here along the bayous of South Louisiana you may occasionally hear someone call a person a tete dur. A tete dur, which translates literally to “hard head” is someone who just won’t listen, whose mind has been made up, or who thinks he knows better. This is a term I’m pretty sure can be applied to most teenagers, starting around the age of 14 and ending around the age of, well, in some cases 21 or so. I am not proud to admit that I have been called a tete dur many times in my day.

Shoshin is a concept in Zen Buddhism meaning “beginner’s mind”. It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner in that subject would.

What if, as a leader, you took the “beginner’s mind” approach to everything you did? What if you put aside your preconceived ideas, your assumptions, and your tete dur, and opened your mind to someone else’s ideas and suggestions? The practice of Zen states that “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.” Could you open your mind up to the many possibilities that are available?

Let’s take a look at the two approaches and you decide for yourself which you will aspire to:

The tete dur is insecure and sees admitting that she doesn’t have all the answers all of the time as an admission of weakness or inadequacy. I have found that many leaders find it harder to say “I don’t know” than it is to apologize or admit a mistake. Maybe it’s because we’ve been conditioned to believe that the boss must know it all. Beginners are secure enough to say “I don’t know” and will take the steps necessary to find out the answers. A beginner will even ask team members for their ideas. Often those on the “front line” will have great ideas for improvements but won’t speak up unless asked.

A tete dur sees himself as an expert based on years of experience and knowledge. A beginner’s mind doesn’t assume anything, but rather, expects that he can learn something from each person he encounters. Of course no one is suggesting that you forget everything you’ve learned, or negate experience; Rather having a beginner’s mind is about keeping an open mind on how to apply your experience to each new circumstance.

A tete dur will often focus on doing things the “normal” way, or the “way we’ve always done things.” A beginner will challenge her paradigms or think outside of the box. Thank goodness inventors like Edison and Da Vinci had the courage to disregard common sense and allow themselves to be creative.

A tete dur gets stuck in preconceived ideas and may even believe that he knows all that he needs to know on a subject. A beginner is insatiably curious and loves to ask questions, learn, and explore. My daddy was a beginner in this regard. He was fascinated by learning how things work and inventing solutions to problems or challenges. (Although he could still be a tete durin many ways!) I am reminded of a Zen story that illustrates this point:

A professor once visited a Japanese master to inquire about Zen. The master served tea. When the visitor’s cup was full, the master kept pouring. Tea spilled out of the cup and over the table.“The cup is full!” said the professor. “No more will go in!” “Like this cup,” said the master, “You are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”

Obviously this story points out the fact that in order to learn and grow – in any subject – we have to be willing to release our pre-conceived ideas and adopt a spirit of curiosity and discovery. As a leader it’s easy to get stuck in what you know and how things have always been done. Today, take on a problem from a beginner’s mind, Tete Dur!

Please share with me what you plan to start doing, stop doing or continue doing as a leader. 

You can get more information about Jennifer Ledet by visiting her website and check out her new book Lead, Follow, or Get Me the Hot Sauce!

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                     Marvelous Performance is never accidental.”
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Tags: Small Business Tips, Business Leadership, Guest Blogs