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Challenging People to Think
Good leaders get people thinking differently.
They challenge others to stretch their views beyond what is comfortable and commonplace. People naturally gravitate toward confirming their existing beliefs and opinions, and they seek out others to validate their views.
Leaders ask us to take another step, to expand our thinking beyond what we know or think we know. This makes everyone better.
Good leaders commonly ask people for their so-called facts. Ideas that they believe are written in stone and above challenge. They then challenge those they lead on purpose. By asking how solid those facts are, why others disagree with them, and why those facts matter, the process of thinking more deeply begins.
In many cases, statements team members adhere to are more opinions than indisputable facts. In today’s world, facts are in short supply, while opinions and views abound. Asking team members to take the other side of their opinion and generate a few reasons or arguments that someone who holds a contrasting view might believe gets the wheel turning.
This is not a devil’s advocate mission to simply acknowledge the opposing view. The ask here is to manufacture the reasons for any disagreement. By taking on the opposing perspective, team members better learn the weaknesses in their own reasoning. As they stretch their thinking in this way, it also allows them to better address the arguments others might pose against their view.
Without challenging our own thinking, we get stuck in an echo chamber. Repeating what we believe to others who sing in the same choir inhibits personal growth. An inability to take on another perspective, at least temporarily, is a sign of a weak thinker who needs to be pushed.
Deep thinking is among the most important habits in life and in the workplace. Like any other habit, thinking can be changed with a little help from an exceptional leader. The idea is not to change a person’s mind. It is to get a person’s mind to embrace change.