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Have you ever changed your mind?

When working with strategic leaders, inevitably there comes a point in time where I ask them the question above. As I believe we all can attest to, the answer of ‘Yes’ is quickly followed by my next question: ‘Why?’.

The answers that I normally received to this question of ‘why did you change your mind’ include:

  • I had new information.
  • New circumstances arose.
  • Better intelligence (reporting, etc.).
  • And many other similar responses…

The answer that usually does NOT come back to me is ‘I was wrong’. At Michael Rainey and Associates (MRA), we encourage leaders, especially those working in uncertain and ambiguous environments where innovation is a key component to success, that their first decision is to accept that they ARE wrong.

As you can imagine, this creates some tension in the room that can only be broken with a well-timed joke where I declare emphatically the following statement:

I am an expert in my own opinion! I do not need someone to tell me what I am thinking. I have that part down! I need someone to tell me what I am NOT thinking.

The key take away is that we as leaders must understand that the above is not a joke, but instead a reality. Our baseline assumption when working with decision makers is that there is ALWAYS more that we (all humans) cannot see than we can see. As such, diverse critical thought helps me see more than I would otherwise. And ‘seeing more’ enables leaders to gather new information, recognize new circumstances, and receive better intelligence BEFORE making the decision. All the things needed to aid us in ‘changing our mind’ before the decision is made in order to make the best decision possible.

Embracing the Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know

Adam Grant, an Organizational Psychologist, Professor at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business, and author of Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know encourages decision makers to view their perspective ‘more as hypotheses in need of confirmation or rebuttal’. As a result, leaders are freed from the burden that ‘they must know everything’ or that ‘changing your mind’ is somehow a sign of weakness or lack of ability.

The Mark of a Strong Leader

To the contrary, it is our belief at MRA that a leader’s ability to actively seek out different perspectives and evidence that is contrary to their own perspective is a key indicator of the opposite: a strong and high functioning leader that seeks to make the best decision possible for the organization!

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