How not to be fooled

As the New Yorker aptly put it a few years ago, “reasonable-seeming people are often totally irrational.”

Our first impressions or experience form what we believe to be true or best, even after learning hard evidence to the contrary. On top of that, our minds are adept at rationalizing and justifying what we believe, and the more intelligent and persuasive we are, the more we are able to do this in a seemingly logical way.

And leaders who have created something new and built a company around it tend to be persuasive and intelligent, so we are quite susceptible to being fooled by ourselves.

This creates two problems

One is that we – sometimes unconsciously – refute or ignore evidence that would lead us to different, better conclusions.

The second is that as a leader, what we believe influences the direction of our business and what others in the business believe. It’s assumed that you know the answer, the right way, or what the problem is – whether you do or not.

How not to be fooled

First, awareness is everything: the more you can increase your awareness about what you believe, it’s more likely that you will be able to spot assumptions or beliefs that you can question.

  • Why do I believe this?
  • Do I understand the opposite side or alternate options well enough?
  • Do I have enough room for what I don’t know?

Next, be careful of not only what you say but how you say it as the leader of your business. Realizing that some of your most critical imperfections are unknown to you should give you pause. Leave room for being wrong, and make sure that people who you lead understand that while you’ve chosen what the best course of action is, you’re open to change and receiving information that might cause that change.

  • Does what my coworkers say and do reflect an understanding of what I said?
  • Did I communicate “best” instead of “right” in my decision?
  • Is it clear to me and others how information can change our path and the best way to communicate it?

The person who can most easily fool us is right in the mirror, but fortunately every single one of us can do something about that.