Leader, Seek First To Understand…

So often in our culture and in business we are taught to find “the path of least resistance” and “don’t work harder, work smarter.” While these concepts have their place, if we are not careful, we tend to use these in a negative way. For example, perhaps our employer, customer, etc. informs us that our work/job/responsibilities are lacking. The self-preservation gene kicks in and we want to lay blame on others or on extenuating circumstances for why we have missed the mark. After all, it’s easier to make excuses than to accept responsibility. For leaders in businesses and organizations, this type of blame game often takes the shape of “jumping the gun.” It’s not uncommon for leaders and managers to be excellent at their respective area of work and/or very versed in a particular subject. The danger of this knowledge is that we often assume we are right about everything related to the subject. When things don’t go as planned/expected, we often (because we are “experts,” remember?) think we know exactly why things went awry… it was someone else’s fault! Part of the responsibility of a leader is to seek first to understand. Many relational bridges have gone up in flames simply because one party “jumped the gun” and blamed another without seeking to first understand the situation. You may know exactly what happened… or you just might think you know and find out the hard way that you made generalizations and assumptions that were simply incorrect. When you seek first to understand, you ask questions. Get other opinions. Do more listening than talking. In doing so, you will often find that your “gut instinct” about something may just be the result of some bad pizza the night before. Seeking to understand is an act of humility and admission that you don’t know everything. When you seek first to understand, you will build respect with your co-workers and those you lead. Seeking first to understand is not easier, but it is wiser. And you will grow in wisdom the more you practice it.

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