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Connecting the Dots of Your Thinking: A Crucial Leadership Skill

Friday, April 3, 2020
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One of the important aspects of being a great leader is the ability to instill confidence in people. Confidence comes in numerous ways, such as having a track record of accomplishing what you say you’re going to do or listening to the ideas and concerns of others and incorporating those into your solutions and communications. This doesn’t mean that you must agree with everyone, but it’s important for people to understand that you have given quality thought to what they have said.

One important element of confidence is how well you communicate your thinking and the quality of that thinking. Whether you’re communicating a vision, a high-level strategy, or a call to action with a detailed plan, it’s your thinking that provides the support for those ideas. If your thinking is flawed, or not well-communicated, or based on information that isn’t accurate, your ideas will be sub-optimal and the confidence that others will have in those ideas will be low.

For example, if you stand up in front of your organization and communicate several inaccurate facts and figures, you will surely raise eyebrows and significantly diminish the confidence others will have related to any conclusions regarding those facts. The reaction is predictable: “Wait a minute, that’s not true” or “Wait a minute, that doesn’t make any sense.” So, make sure your facts are always accurate.

Also important is your communication with respect to how you interpret information. Much of the information we receive is from what we read, what we are told, and the experiences we have had. How you weigh that information and how relevant it is to a situation contributes to your confidence in the conclusions you form as well as the confidence that everyone else will have.

Whether you’re a business leader, a manager, a CEO, a politician, or an individual charged with leading people, it’s important that the information you communicate and the thinking you use to interpret that information is sound.
When you can connect all these together—the facts, the information that you have received, the experiences that you and others have—and the connection is clear and consistent, then your foundation for conclusions will be strong. As a result, you and everyone else will have confidence. People will be able to connect the dots.

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I can’t think of a more important time to demonstrate leadership than in the current COVID-19 emergency. Listen carefully to those who are communicating with us—the politicians, the scientists, the media, friends, and family. When you listen to them, are the suggestions and ideas rooted in facts and accurate information about what is going on, what is being measured, and what the situation is? You’ll have confidence in those leaders if their thinking is sound, it holds together, it’s consistent, and the dots all connect.

We all make assumptions about the state of affairs, and we make them based on the facts and other information we have. If the assumptions we make are not clearly understood and directly supported by the facts and other information we have, then the dots aren’t going to connect and, again, people will scratch their heads and say, “Wait a minute, that doesn’t make any sense.”

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As a leader, it is imperative that you accurately and clearly communicate the state of affairs, the issue, and the goal. You should communicate what you know as well as gaps in the knowledge. If you make assumptions about the gaps, you need to be clear as to why you’re making those assumptions (the facts and other information you are using as the basis of those assumptions). People will judge this thinking, and if clear and the thinking flows well, then the actions you take will be well understood, and others will have confidence.

Confidence from others is an important part of your leadership. Communicate your thinking in a clear and concise manner and make sure all the dots connect.

About the Author

Michael Kallet is an expert in the critical thinking field. He founded HeadScratchers in 2004 to help people become better problem solvers and decision makers. He created the curriculum and has delivered hundreds of critical thinking workshops to thousands of people. Additionally, he wrote the book Think Smarter and has delivered keynote speeches at numerous conferences and corporate events. 

Prior to forming HeadScratchers, Michael was a technology and operations executive with 25 years of experience in leading teams that created numerous award-winning products and services spanning computer and communications technologies and markets. He received a bachelor of science degree in physics from Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

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