It’s dangerous for leaders to accept assumptions as fact. Heck! We miss a lot if we don’t question things presented as absolute truth.
I realized that even conventional wisdom deserves to be questioned back in 1988 when my first child was born in Germany. American baby books insisted that submerging a baby in water before the umbilical cord came off could cause grave health effects. However, the German nurse dunked my son in a tub of water the day after he was born. I gasped!
She turned and asked me what was wrong. I explained that Americans don’t submerge babies until the umbilical cord falls off. She cocked an eyebrow at me and asked how we kept the umbilical cord clean. I told her that we swabbed it with alcohol – and she gasped. She said incredulously, “You put alcohol on babies?”
Hmmm. Two countries full of people with normal belly buttons – each insisting that their way was the only right way! Now, when someone tells me that something “has” to be done a certain way, I cock an eyebrow and say, “Are you sure?”
“Because it’s always been done this way” is a sure cue that it’s time to look around for other ideas, and so is “That can’t be done.” I’ve heard my share of both of those phrases. On one Army post, the hunting area bordered the playground. Disoriented bow hunters often came out of the woods and onto the play area. I went to talk with someone about it, and he said, “Mrs. Torrey, it’s always been that way.”
Hmmm. That doesn’t necessarily make it a good idea. I told him as much and finished with, “Now that I have brought it to your attention, it is your responsibility if a child is hurt or killed.” He decided that the way it had always been done needn’t continue, and they backed up the borders of the hunting areas.
Great leaders are creative thinkers! They don’t get stuck in thinking ruts walked by millions of others. They try to see everything from fresh perspectives. They also don’t accept the status quo. If it’s not a good idea, it’s not a good idea no matter how long it’s been around.
As leaders, it’s important that we look at work and home life in new ways and ask ourselves some questions. What assumptions are we making about people and situations? If we don’t know something for a fact, then let’s get out there and question it. Let’s question everything! It’s the perspective of great leaders.
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