THINK, Ask… Think Again… Then ‘Send’

Accountability Collaboration Organizational leadership


Key Point: Warren Buffett says, “What the human being is best at doing, is interpreting all new information so that their prior conclusions remain intact.” I know better, but this Buffett quote applied to me the other day.

I am currently driving hard getting several key projects delivered before the end of the year and recently got some serious email push back from another executive challenging some assumptions on one of these. Why was this person challenging MY assumptions? After all, this is MY project, I’ve got approval for it, and doesn’t this person understand I have a “big title?” Certainly this associate must appreciate the complexity and tight schedule we’re on. So, knowing I’m right of course, I rip off an email essentially asking the person to pull forward instead of pushing back. When I subsequently received more complete information about the concerns raised by this executive, they were more than legitimate. I made some big assumptions that made sense on the surface but were unsupported by additional detail and facts. So I ended up eating crow instead of turkey for Canadian Thanksgiving. I apologized to my colleague for my quick, incomplete response, and committed to work with him and his team to dig in further.

I’ve been leading and managing for so long that my first rodeo involved the wooly mammoth. I know better than to machine gun fire off an email response about anything. So why does this still happen? Well, we’re human for one thing, and the act of moving forward is not about perfection. We make and unfortunately, repeat mistakes. In this case, I skipped over several key checks I normally try and follow. (I can give you lots of legitimately sounding excuses as to why I did). This cost me, and others, to waste valuable time. I need to sharpen my tool kit, and practice more. Therefore I am revisiting my checklist as follows:

Character Moves:

  1. Stop, think and put your ego in check. Why do you feel the need for an emotional response when challenged? I bet it is the ego in control and the matter is more about you being right, protecting your authority, territory, or some other defensive matter. Being right is less important than doing the right thing. It is hard to be this self-aware in the “heat” of daily work, and the ego can be a troublemaker with the best intention. Putting one’s ego in the penalty box doesn’t mean being a wimp. Actually, counter intuitively acting with the ego in check makes you stronger.
  2. Ask questions first. You will be glad that you did. Sincerely ask for additional clarification from the person challenging your viewpoint. Get below the surface perspective of the other person and understand their situation and aspirations relative to your position on the matter. (By the way, email or text is not always the best medium, but that’s another matter).
  3. Seek counsel first. Get advice from others who know your blind spots. All of us need trusted advisors who are confident telling us what we need to hear, not what we want to hear. These are really valuable colleagues. Build these relationships and recognize that the very best seek counsel all the time. Going at it alone can be a tip off that you might find yourself on the wrong road. The more at risk, of course the more counsel is required.

These simple steps are a paradox in that they make so much obvious sense, but in the midst of daily pressures, they can be skipped over. Life unfolds in untidy ways. We have multiple business and personal things going on, and it is so tempting to take short cuts. I pride myself on being action oriented and confident in my ability to think critically. However, I also know if I skip the three steps above, it ultimately slows me down and my thinking is less than critical.

Turkey instead of crow in the Triangle,