An obvious and often overlooked leadership responsibility is how you choose to filter the information around you. The danger for leaders comes in forgetting that we orient ourselves based on all our motivational and cognitive biases. In John Boyd’s OODA loop the first two steps, Observe and Orientate can be easily passed without active thought, we think we see and understand the world intuitively. But put plainly, we see what we expect or desire to see, not necessarily the truth. Leaders don’t have that luxury, leaders need to learn how to build awareness of how biases effect the information they receive. Observe without trying to hear what you want to hear. In land navigation and survival training, we tell people “don’t bend the map.” When you accept new observations without your biases you have a much better opportunity to direct teams to success without creating confusion or drama. Not bending the map requires awareness of how we think and process information.
To get started, here are some items for consideration.
- First, take time daily to sit down and outline, think or write about what you are trying to achieve.
- Second, practice listening to your team without giving immediate feedback. When you’re in a meeting, listen, take notes but don’t steer the briefing, let your team get their message out.
- And finally, assume everyone is trying to do the right thing: to improve their life, their working conditions, and by proxy the company. Use that as a base assumption. Even if you don’t like or understand what is being told, assume that it was done with the best information they had at the time.
It is highly unlikely that your team has set out to fail on purpose. Keep that in mind before you respond. Remember, a leader’s job is to grow other leaders so getting information from your team should be a directional signal to help you educate your teams even better and constantly improve results.