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Three most dangerous traps even experienced leaders may fall into

Christian Fernsby |
No matter how experienced you are there may something around that just wait for you and if you don't see you may fall into a trap that may be dangerous.


If you are very experienced your opinion may be accepted with little or no arguments against because you start the conversation "This is a problem, and this is a solution." "The problem is that this sways everyone's thinking and will suppress other comments and ideas, which is exactly what we don't want if we're striving for perspective and constructive debate," Bruce Eckfeldt reports.

"The solution to this is to have a clear process for articulating the topic and gathering data and success criteria before launching into solutions and decisions. I also typically have the CEO or other influential executives on the team speak last so they don't skew the discussion."

"Correlation is not causation. It's easy to assume that just because one thing relates to another there is a causal relationship. My favorite example is a study that appeared in Nature in 1999 that showed that parents who leave the lights on in their infant's bedroom at night cause myopia.

"One year later, Nature published a new study that showed that the lights have no impact, but rather there is a strong correlation between nearsighted parents having nearsighted children. The lights were just something that nearsighted parents left on so they could see better.

"Leadership teams fall into this same trap. Just because one thing goes up at the same time as another, it doesn't mean that one causes the other. Making that assumption and failing to find the true cause can lead teams down bad paths.

The way to avoid this is to assume temporarily that the opposite is true and try to prove that by looking for evidence. If you can make a plausible argument, you might be looking at a correlation, not a causation situation.

"As humans, we love drama. It's what makes for compelling movies and page-turner books. But on leadership teams, it's typically a liability. Unfortunately, it can be human nature to take one event or one case and to assign a disproportionate meaning or weight to it in order to make a point or advance a personal agenda.

"Key giveaways that this is happening are when I hear people using 'never' and 'always' in their arguments. This technique is usually employed to emphasize a point or to strengthen an argument, but, instead, they are just setting things up for an argument.

"Instead, I encourage teams to speak with realistic data and probabilities. If you know that 82 percent of the deals close within a month, don't say 'we always close.' And if you know someone was late to the daily huddle three times last week, don't say they are 'never on time.' While you may think you're making a stronger point, you're just going to pick a fight over the data.


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