My wife and I have been together so long that both of us believes we know what the other is thinking. But we don’t. When forget we get into trouble.
We cannot know what is written on somebody’s heart. We cannot make assumptions based on our observations of their behaviour filtered through our perception of the world. “We don’t see the world as it is, we see the world as we are” (Goethe).
It’s important to clarify instead of assume. To ask questions instead of judging. To try to get, if possible, others to tell us what their intentions, motivations, or reasoning is. To listen.
Ask questions. Ask open-ended questions. Squash as many of your own assumptions as you can.
We often try to avoid conflict. What we end up doing is preserving artificial harmony, which erodes trust and committment. Passionate debate and creative conflict is often what’s needed. Laying it all on the table. Being vulnerable. This doesn’t mean we have to make (or tolerate) personal attacks.
Stick to the facts, and if you need to then describe the consequences of those facts as you see them. For example, you may draw the conclusion that an employee is lazy when they come to work a half an hour late every morning.
If you start the conversation “Hey, you’re lazy.” you’re not going to get very far. You might need start the conversation something like “When you come into work half an hour late every morning [the fact] it makes you look lazy [the result as you see them].”
Stick to the facts. Don’t attack people.
You must speak your own truth. This goes together with the previous “discuss facts” directive. The passionate debate and creative conflict can’t happen if you don’t give to the conversation. If you’re the leader (manager, executive) then a big part of your job is to make sure everybody is heard before deciding. Even if you think you already know what decision you’re going to make.
With people very often you have to go slow to speed up.
Without being heard, there is no committment. Even if your employees (volunteers, children) don’t agree with the final decision (and they don’t have to, because commitment isn’t about consensus), you’ll have a better chance of getting their agreement if you’ve listened to and heard them. Speak your truth, hear their truth.
Speak up, and let others speak
Summary for Leaders
- Clarify assumptions, ask questions
- Debate facts, not personalities
- Speak up, leave room for others to speak
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