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Bring People Along With Your Thinking
Leaders and experts can sometimes be too smart for their own good. Over time, they masterfully work through a problem or opportunity and reach a strong conclusion or decision. This viewpoint arrives after real effort.
The leader’s thinking evolves as they struggle through a set of facts, premises, and beliefs until an actionable decision emerges. Everyone values such sound thinking. Until that moment when the leader communicates their conclusion by starting at the endpoint.
Leaders and experts who communicate excitement and conviction about their conclusions without describing how they got there end up losing people. When they fail to catch everyone up with the steps that led them to the conclusion, team members are left scratching their heads. They respond with confusion or resistance. They can’t follow the reasoning because there isn’t any. Such leaders and experts are described as getting way ahead of the team without bringing them along.
In order to embrace and fully implement a decision or plan, team members have to understand it. They won’t believe in any conclusion they haven’t reached for themselves through discussion and examination.
For talented team members, accepting a decision without understanding where it comes from is akin to eating a dish without knowing what is in it. They look at it with suspicion and distrust, presupposing they won’t like it. Not a recipe for execution success.
Leaders and experts are sometimes too excited about the decision to fill in the details. In their impatience to move to execution, they can jump ahead of the team and presume everyone gets it when they don’t.
Only later, as implementation falls apart or team members express dissatisfaction or resistance to the decision, do leaders learn they have made a crucial mistake. At that point, reviewing the steps that led to the conclusion rarely fixes the problem.
Good leaders will clearly explain the many premises they accepted or rejected in reaching the conclusion. They take the time to help others see how the decision was reached. By not skipping over the thinking steps involved, team members are given a deeper appreciation for the reasoning involved, even when they don’t agree.
Better yet, when they can, the best leaders bring the team along during the thinking process before they have settled on the answer. Using the team to help them examine the issues and facts during the journey makes them a part of the thinking process and promotes a shared commitment to whatever conclusion emerges.
A decision is the spark that ignites action. But only when the team accepts how the decision was made. Reaching the best conclusion doesn’t count for much if the team is unwilling or reluctant to execute it. Bringing them along with their thinking is what good leaders do. Anything else is just getting ahead of your skis.