Friday, March 8, 2019

Leadership Lesson 2: The Bad Habit of Making Stuff Up

Associated Leadership Expectation: Act with Honesty and Integrity

We begin charting our mental maps at a very young age. Our experiences lay down the roads and byways that provide future avenues from an event to an explanation based on the past. This is a normal part of the developing mind. Our mental maps provide direction when we have new experiences by reminding us of similar situations from our past. They lead us to make assumptions to help us react and problem-solve in the here-and-now. When pieces of information are missing, our mental maps Make Stuff Up to fill in the blanks.

The problem is not that we Make Stuff Up. Inferences are part of our learning and help us to make logical sense of our world. The problem is that we treat our assumptions as fact without checking to see if they are accurate. Sometimes, we need to piece together information and attempt a narrative explanation without the benefit of the source. One of the best ways to preserve integrity in our communication is to preface the parts where we are Make Stuff Up with a phrase such as, “I make up that____.” Then, we can follow up on our conjectures for verification from the appropriate sources.

Acting with honesty and integrity is especially noticeable in our communication. Factual communication is key to helping us be loyal to the absent. Too often, when we Make Stuff Up, we are making assumptions about someone else’s intentions, about why they performed an action or made a decision. Providing candid feedback and opinions is an integral part of this leadership expectation—and that includes admitting when we don’t know.

Above all else, acting with honesty and integrity is the primary way we can build trust with our direct reports, peers, congregants, and coworkers/co-volunteers. As Steven Covey (1989) puts it, “Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” When we choose to Make Stuff Up and state it as fact, we risk destroying the trust we have worked so hard to build.

Tip #2: When you’re not sure of the facts, whether yours or someone else’s, don’t be afraid to question them. “Is that factual, or is that an assumption?”

Covey, S. (1989). The 7 habits of highly effective people: Powerful lessons in personal change. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

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