When was the last time you changed your mind about something?
What is something which you used to believe in strongly, but don’t anymore?
When I asked myself these two questions this morning, I had to think long and hard. And that made me feel uncomfortable.
I fall prey to confirmation bias. I’m strident when it comes to my strong opinions. I’ve noticed the more I’m seen as an “expert” in something (like burnout or leadership), the more I risk not being open to new information which may challenge my current thinking.
So, today’s blog post from The Leader’s Digest is as much to me as it is for you.
As a leader, you’re required to make decisions even when you feel you’re missing pertinent information or knowledge. That’s par for the course. But, with the pace of change and complexity we’re faced with while leading today, it’s more likely than ever you’ll also constantly receive new information which you need to take into consideration and assimilate. We’re being forced not only to think, but also to rethink – constantly.
What is more dangerous to success than unshakeable belief in the face of new evidence?
When we become too entrenched in our position. There’s no listening. There’s no learning. We end up making poor decisions. We come across as arrogant and rigid.
Being hardheaded is something we’ve all fallen prey to. We resist changing our minds because we think its embarrassing to do so in front of others. It’s hard to abandon our position, however unproductive it proves to be, and to admit that we were wrong. But, according to research, leaders are seen as less intelligent if they never change their mind.
Smart leaders challenge themselves to be receptive to new information and to changing their mind. They start an encounter with curiosity and an open mind. They act like scientists, amending their hypotheses. They actively seek different perspectives and a range of evidence. And they’re aware of their own biases and actively seek to address them.
Here are some ways you can avoid becoming entrenched in your thinking:
- Be aware of when you hold strong views and what you hold strong views on. This, in itself, is a useful self-awareness exercise. Views are not the same as knowing your values and living by them. What are your strongly held opinions at work? These are the areas where you need to be more purposeful in listening to others’ perspectives and being open.
- Model “mind-changing”. When you receive valid evidence that your initial stance was wrong, label your behaviour as being responsive to facts. Or simply say, loudly and clearly, “I was wrong.”
- Notice when you’re getting dug in on something. For example, I have to be careful when it comes to leadership concepts like feedback. I think it’s an important skill for leaders to master. So it was great when I came across this HBR article which challenged my thinking and stance on that topic.
- Deepen your listening when you hear a different perspective to yours. Instead of trying to convince them why you’re right as a first approach, seek to intensify your understanding of their view. Ask open, curious questions with a positive intent.
- Read widely. Purposefully seek out alternative perspectives to your own. Uncomfortable? Yes. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything else you read, but you will broaden your understanding and that’s a good thing.
Nobody wants a flip flop leader who changes their mind all the time.
But never changing your mind is equally damaging.