Monday, December 06, 2010

Check Your Filters

Ever struggled to get the results you want?   Isn’t it frustrating?  I have been thinking recently that it must be a common complaint for members of the UK’s coalition government.

Good leadership of people requires an acceptance that they will respond to how they perceive your behaviours and not necessarily to your original intention. This is particularly true with communication. If the perceived message does not match the intended outgoing message then the point gets lost or is misinterpreted.

We all carry in our head pre-suppositions about how things should be, what certain behaviours mean, how people should behave and what's the right way to do things.

These pre-suppositions are like filters - and everyone’s filters are different. Being able to consciously recognise your own and others’ for what they are is a pre-requisite to good communication.  It helps to stop you assuming too quickly that you understand someone else’s intention – or they yours!

Accepting that different people carry different filters allows you to appreciate that if you want to “treat someone well” then your actions must be consistent with their filters about what “being treated well” looks like. For example, assume you want to thank and acknowledge someone for making a special effort. Your own preference might be to get a public thank you in front of an audience. But another person’s might be a private thank you and a small personal token, like a meal out with their partner. To make the right connection you need to understand others’ filters and preferences.

When I meet effective leaders I am often struck by their ability to read other people and then adjust their own behaviour to get the results they want. In doing this, they all display two vital ingredients: a desire to connect and curiosity.

Connecting people make the effort to determine the other person's perspective and respond to it. They think through the other person’s likely issues, concerns and hot buttons. They ask questions, listen carefully and probe for insights. This makes for increased understanding, better communications and better outcomes. 

Coalition politics are often fraught with problems because one person sees and hears things through a different filter to the person who originates an action.  Layer on top of that different objectives to start with and it just gets harder and harder!

Reading and responding to people more effectively is one way to get better results. I have seen many successful leaders reap the rewards of investing time in doing this better.

How well do you check your filters and seek fresh perspectives?

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