People tell me that one of the things they value about the work I do is the way in which I re-present common sense. I believe that the reason it is seen as powerful is because at those times we most need our common sense, it leaves us. A project I have been working on recently to address the growth challenges for a global organisation with a changing customer landscape has prompted me to remember a very simple piece of advice – hold your opinions lightly! What I have experienced is that while very simple it would appear to be an extraordinarily difficult thing for many people to put into practice. In particular, I find the more senior leaders get the less many seem able to see the limitations of their own opinions. It takes real courage and insight to be able to have opinions and to hold them lightly.
Unless we are able to hold our opinions up to the light – review the assumptions we have built them on, consider the new and different contexts we find ourselves in and contemplate just for a moment that we might be wrong then we simply become more opinionated and less impactful.
In organisations we all do of course hold a myriad of opinions about a very diverse range of things. Some are based on our technical expertise, some based on our experience, some based on advice of others. What is consistent is that all opinions are ultimately based on our lens of the world – and we could well do with remembering that.
The one area which is the most costly for organisations and individuals is the opinions we hold about each other and the actions we take and ways we behave as a result. It is sadly not unusual for me to find myself in a conversation with a leader who will be very clear on their low opinions of others. However it is often those same people who really struggle to hear when others hold negative views of them – or to see the role they might play in contributing to the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of how others work. I just wonder if we could achieve more in our organisations if we resisted the urge to write so many people off.
There is a great quote from the Philosopher Epictetus “opinions are the cause of a troubled mind. Throw out your conceited opinions for it is impossible for a person to begin to learn what he already knows”.
My invitation to all of us is to take a moment to reflect on the opinions we hold of others before we make critical choices that limit future possibilities and ask yourself: