At our annual meeting a few weeks ago, we were fortunate to have several great communicators and thought leaders address our group. One of them was Andy Andrews. One of the things he said that caught my attention was this… “Don’t believe everything you think.”
As leaders, we’re a confident group. We have to be. It’s a prerequisite to fulfill our role. We’ve got to have confidence in the future we see, and we must have confidence in the strategies we’ve created to get there. We have to believe we can lead. In the midst of this confidence, we must also be careful. We’re not always right.
Our fallibility shows up in many forms – none more often than in our thinking. I find Andy’s advice both sobering and challenging. He wasn’t asking you and me to have less confidence. He was challenging us to be grounded in reality; just because we think something doesn’t make it true.
There are many ways our thinking can get off course and lead us to the wrong conclusion. Here are a few of them…
You could have been wrong about a person’s motives.
You could have been wrong about a person’s intent.
You could have been wrong about the root cause of the problem.
Your personal bias could have colored your thinking.
You may have been overly optimistic.
Your idea may not be as good as you think.
You could have oversimplified the problem in your own mind.
You could have been too aggressive with the timeline you envisioned.
This list is just for starters. Considering all that could lead us to the wrong conclusion, it’s amazing when a leader cultivates the ability to get it right more often than not. How do the best leaders do this?
I don’t think there is a formula or a class you can take. I think to get the right answer, we must always consider: we can be wrong. This simple idea can infuse just enough humility to make us open to the input of others.
Once you reach a level of maturity and humility to be open to input, I have only one caution – Don’t just listen to people who agree with you.
If we only surround ourselves with people who always agree with us, we might as well be alone. They will add no value with regards to helping us think. The people I’ve enjoyed working with the most over the years are those who have an opinion, are willing to share it and don’t mind if we disagree.
Candor, and those who bring it, is a rare and precious gift for any leader. Every leader needs truth tellers in your life! Encourage people around you to challenge your thinking.
When interviewing candidates to work with me as my assistant, I told each one if they couldn’t muster the courage to tell me, at least once a month, that I had lost my mind, they would not be a good fit for the job. You may think this is crazy…
Don’t believe everything you think.
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