Paint, Pain and Monkeys – Leveraging differences to get the best results for your business

 

“It’s red.”

“It’s magenta.”

“No! It’s more like a dark pink.”

“Are you all blind, are we actually looking at the same thing? It’s purple for crying out loud!”

 

You’re sure John is colour blind (look at that tie!), so of course he can’t see right? Sally is a straight out of school “millennial” with no life-experience so how would she know the colour? And Stephen still wears his brown suit from the 80’s so of course he can’t be trusted with colour selection.

Put this in the business context and we’ve all had a similar experience where no one is on the same page. We will often justify our position of being “right”, because… well, as breathing humans, it’s sometimes hard to admit that we might actually not know everything, and we aren’t always right.

But, what if everyone is correct? Consider this, John, Sally and Stephen’s brains are telling them that that’s how they see that colour. If their brain is telling them this, then frankly there is no justification that you can make that says they aren’t right in their own minds. Sure, you could get a sample of other humans to validate what the colour is for everyone else, and one might come out as more common, but does that make the way that John sees the world any less valuable or right for that matter?

 

Human brains are incredible.

 

They filter about 2 million pieces of information per second, then run that information through a series of decision making criteria: what we believe to be true, what we value, what our radar is turned onto, what our emotions are, and our past experiences. In that split second, it chooses the 7 chunks or packets of information to take notice of and keep reference to. Given that the brain is called upon to filter between 20 and 40 million bits of information, while you read this paragraph, is it any wonder that we perceive things in slightly different ways?

This filtering not only occurs with paint colour recognition, it occurs everywhere, including your business and can have a huge impact on your business’s success.

How often have you given instructions to your team, and when they have returned with job completed it’s nothing like what you wanted? Are you a poor communicator? Perhaps. Is your team up to the job? Perhaps not. But what if their brains are filtering your instructions in the same way as with the paint example? While your team are listening to your instructions, they are running the filter. You say a critical word that their brain doesn’t make sense of… it’s deleted. You give an instruction of the way you want the task done… their brain says “oh, we don’t like that… we don’t do it that way” and the message becomes distorted.

Communication is a complex and fickle thing, and sometimes frustrating when you’re getting your messages mixed, particularly when it comes to communicating with your team. The problem I see is that, unless you take 100% responsibility for the way that you communicate, then you are never going to achieve your desired outcomes.

 

What does taking 100% responsibility for your communication as a leader look like?

 

  • Responsibility means communicating clearly on your expectations and the outcomes that you want to achieve. How can your team get it ‘right’ if they don’t know the direction or outcome? If we take our paint example; you might sit down with the team and say, ‘team we need to decide on the word we are going to use to describe the colour. We want to come to this outcome with grace and aligned with our business values; we therefore have permission and responsibility to call out anyone that isn’t aligned with this objective. We must agree that we all have an opportunity to contribute, and we all have a valid opinion. We need a majority vote, in the allocated time, and we need to ensure that we don’t leave without accepting the name, even if you don’t agree with it. Does anyone have any questions or concerns about this process or the desired outcome?’

 

  • It’s about appreciating that humans come in all shapes, with all sorts of capacities, styles and idiosyncrasies. Everyone has unique skills, capabilities and contributions to make. If you’re keeping a team member in your organisation, I’m going to assume there is a good reason. Lead them to allow them to utilise those skills and capabilities and give them a chance to contribute. Give your team the opportunity to be heard by accepting that just because there is a different opinion, it doesn’t necessarily make it incorrect. It is simply how that person is interpreting their environment. In our paint example, you might get really curious and ask your team, “what makes you say that? How would you describe the colours that the others are referring to? Is it closer to x or y?”

 

  • It’s about letting go of your ego, because, brace yourself – you might not be right either! That has to be OK if you’re looking to grow. Being able to make decisions (often without all the relevant information) is a skill that business owners must have; however, I believe you hire a team to strengthen weaknesses. If you’re not going to listen to your team because your ego thinks that you’re just “super” and always right, you might as well employ a bunch of smoking monkeys.

 

  • It’s about accepting that as the leader in your business, if something isn’t working, if the team isn’t aligned, if the team aren’t performing, if the team are arguing more than collaborating, if you’re not getting the outcomes it’s your responsibility to change it. I don’t believe there is any negotiation here. You set the standard and expectations in your business – if you’re not getting what you want and need, you must look at your contribution.

 

Be it paint colours or a major project involving many moving parts in your business, the key to getting to the end of the day, week, month, year and out lifetime with passion, with heart, with a smile on our faces is appreciating the uniqueness of those around us. Take 100% responsibility for our outcomes 100% of the time, and communicate openly, honestly and with the outcome in mind.

 

Are you having trouble getting your team on the same page, communicating effectively, and moving towards the goal cohesively? Get in touch!

 

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