Humans are wired to assume we’re right, that we will win, and that we’re on top of our game.
Our mind is designed to constantly filter information from our environment that supports and represents our best reality. Which is why leaders often don’t see what’s happening until it’s too late.
Our brain programing
Brain science has proven that when we’re presented with information that threatens us or our situation, our unconscious brain proceeds to distort our reality, filling in the blanks with evidence designed to reduce the threat and make us feel better.
That programming is even stronger when it comes to protecting our beliefs about our businesses and ourselves in times of threat or opportunity, and we have to constantly act to avoid the downside of this innate response.
But if we’re unconsciously tinting reality to our favor, how do we have any hope of seeing what’s really happening around us?
Rebel Brown, in her book The Influential Leader, offers three simple steps to help us avoid the rosy tint, and insure a clearer view of our markets, our organizations and ourselves.
1. Prove yourself wrong
Take any of your assumptions or ideas and go exploring, actively looking for evidence to prove yourself wrong. See beyond data that agrees with your position and find evidence you’re inaccurate. This approach offers several benefits:
- When you find that evidence, you will save yourself the time and money invested in the idea.
- You’ll discover insights to refine your belief to be more accurate and powerful.
- If you don’t find any contrary evidence you can proceed with increased confidence.
- You’ll retrain your mind to see a broader perspective, beyond the natural tendency of your brain to focus on supporting evidence for your beliefs.
2. Explore a 360 degree perspective
We’re designed to be learning machines – we learn from our experiences, our teachers, our peers, our friends and mentors. The more diverse data we bring into our minds, the broader our perspectives can become, and it breeds better results. The ability to learn continues throughout our lives, but at some point, we begin to rely more on what we know from the past than the reality in front of us. To avoid this, take a 360 degree view of every aspect of your business and challenge your own assumptions.
- Examine issues from a number of perspectives – read articles that take a different slant, look for companies who have done things differently, seek out opposing opinions.
- Talk to others who have different experiences and expectations and listen intently.
3. Get outside your comfort zone
As humans, we’re wired to seek what’s known and comfortable. This means our colleagues, favorite customers and even our offices become places of safety and comfort. Get out of your comfort zone and into the reality of the workplace.
- Speak to those customers who are angry, or who have already left your business for another option and listen openly and attentively to their feedback. They’ll tell you more about the reality of your market position than your favorite customers will.
- Chat with business leaders and others not in your industry. Welcome their unique perspective and ask how they’ve addressed the challenges you now face.
Use these techniques to keep you and your team in sync with the reality of your business, as they should lead to improved market leadership and bottom line success.