Critically Think, for Your Boss’s Sake!

If you watch Lie To Me, this may jog your memory. If not- the basic premises is that you can read

people’s faces & body language to tell the truth and best understand a situation.

I was just watching the episode, Teacher and Pupils, when this scene happened:
Cal & Gillian (the main characters) walk into a board room with 4 men sitting at the end of a table. They don’t say hello or introduce themselves, instead Cal abruptly tells an inappropriate joke. After watching the men’s reactions he concludes,
“Right. Well, you’re the boss because everyone else, they waited, you know just a millisecond before they laughed. You, you laughed but in truth you found it offensive, right? Being the family man that you are. You, you got turned on by it. And you, well you’d heard it before but you laughed anyway. You’re laugh was fake. So…”
Is it just me or is there a problem with this scenario?! In this example, no one said, “Hey, wait a minute. You may have gotten our positions right but that joke was offensive.” or “Well wait, I’d like more your business plan before I invest money in your company.” Have you ever been in a meeting where this chain of reactions happened? I think most of us have.
Following the boss doesn’t always mean you get the best results. Nor does blindly agreeing with the boss or biting your tongue. Don’t assume that your managers have all the right answers. What evidence do you have to support the assumption that they do? Meetings happen to brainstorm, strategize and create solutions. You’re involved in meetings for your knowledge & expertise. You should be expected to participate.
Here are some simple ways to respectfully speak up at your next meeting:

Recognize assumptions:
  • Ask open-ended questions that determine facts from opinions such as: “what evidence do we have to support that?”
  • Ask open-ended questions that help clarify assumptions such as: “what assumptions are me making?” or “what assumptions need to be made in order for this to work?”
  • Ask open ended questions to see differences such as: “what were you expecting?” or “how do you see this playing out in a month? 5 months?”
Evaluate the arguments:
  • Recognize biases! If everyone is waiting until the boss reacts or you’re team tends to agree with information they already know, you’re probably experiencing biases.
  • Ask the same questions in different ways. For example asking, “what do you want for dinner?” and “what don’t you want for dinner?” will yield different answers.
  • Recognize when things get emotional. Keep meetings objective. Remind people of the goal. If you’re evaluating a project plan, stick to the information being presented. If you see things are getting emotional, it’s best to take a break.
Draw conclusions:
  • Create a checklist for data. For example, you may want to ask: where is the data came from? What the data says? Why you should consider the data? How else it can be interpreted?
  • Bring in multiple sources to, among other things, reduce the risk of confirmation bias.
  • Ask others to critique ideas. Some companies even delegate a different person as the “devil’s advocate” for every meeting.

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Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Elizabeth Pauker-Silva

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