As action-oriented people, most leadership teams want to sprint toward getting a plan in place. As one of my retired-executive friends says, “I’m an engineer by training. I want to pour concrete not sit in a room and think…”
It’s understandable, but I’ve come to believe that it’s absolutely imperative for leadership teams acquire perspective before pouring concrete. Otherwise, we might be pouring concrete in the wrong place – or pouring concrete when we should be planting flowers.
But gaining perspective is devilishly difficult. My friend and colleague, Linda Lindquist-Bishop recently sent me an op-ed piece from David Brooks in the NY Times. In it, Brooks talks about the challenges we face in perceiving things accurately, especially with the huge increase in available information over the past decade. It used to be that we didn’t have enough information. Now we may have enough information to justify any position we’d like to take, regardless of whether it’s true or not.
This got me thinking about a few questions any leadership team might consider adding into its thinking process as it tries to get perspective and shape plans for the future:
- What are our assumptions and prejudices as we look at our situation? What do we want to be true (even if it strains the facts)?
- What recent events may cloud our judgment? If we took a longer view, what might we see?
- What events have we assumed are root causes of our situation? Are they really causes or just correlations?
- What do we congratulate ourselves for that may have just happened as a result of good fortune/dumb luck? In other words, how have we been successful in spite of our actions vs. because of our actions?
As Brooks says, “The human mind is continually trying to perceive things that aren’t true, and not perceiving them takes enormous effort.” But once the concrete is poured, it takes even more effort to tear it out!