Do you fall in love with your own ideas?
I see leaders make this mistake frequently. They fall in love with their own ideas.
In other words, they get high on their own supply.
I’m not here to judge. I’m just as guilty.
Most of us have a bug in our operating system — If an idea sounds good in our head, we assume it must sound good in everyone’s head too. This bug gets us in trouble with our team.
- Teams get frustrated with half-baked ideas.
- Teams have a lack of ownership in execution. (Its not their idea)
- Teams start to feel like an after-thought. You only go to them with your ideas.
How do you make sure your ideas are well thought out? Instead of falling in love with your idea. Get some distance from your idea first. Get some eyes and ears on your thought process before going full throttle.
1. Become a debate maker.
One way to prove out your idea is to encourage dissent. When you give teams permission to disagree with your ideas, weirdly enough they help you make it even better.
The following three questions will help you encourage debate:
- “Can someone poke holes in my argument?”
- “What’s the downside to my approach?”
- “What’s a different perspective?”
Your goal is to fight the idea, not the person. An effective way to draw out the best idea is by extracting the wisdom on your team. Giving permission to vigorously debate ideas will help you do just that.
2. Default to writing.
Writing produces clarity. If you think your strategy is the right way to go, prove it to yourself by writing it out. (No slides. Write a paragraph or two) Once you start transferring your ideas from your brain to a paper or doc, you’ll find more clarity (after struggling). Don’t just stop there. Once you’ve done a V1, share it with your teams and have them add their input.
The best companies on the planet have rich writing cultures.
- Amazon is known for its 6-page memos.
- Stripe is know for using docs over slides.
Another advantage of writing is it helps you debate your ideas effectively with other stakeholders. It helps you poke holes in your thinking and strengthens your argument. Here are four writing tips from Stripe’s documentation manager.
- Consider your audience when writing. Some audiences value complex words — some don’t. The goal is to find the most compelling language for the audience you need to reach and act on your document.
- Keep paragraphs short (3–4 sentences). If possible, make the first paragraph of a document 2–3 sentences.
- Use subheads and bulleted lists to break up walls of text.
- Edit frequently. Edit your own work, and ask peers to edit it as well. Editing is the key to getting the best clarification of your idea.
3. Sleep on it.
Sleeping on it is an effective way to delay (hopefully eliminate) an idea that sounds great in your head but is anything but. It’s also a great way to flesh out your thought process before socializing it with your stakeholders. Here’s an excerpt from sleep research conducted by Harvard and UMass researchers:
“Sleep not only impacts how you take on new information but also appears to have some surprising influence on past information.
Too many of us have made rash decisions, floated half-baked ideas, or said something we could’ve easily avoided, had we slept on it.
If you’re looking for distance and clarity, sleep is a great tool to help you find it. The best leaders understand they don’t have all the answers all the time. They know their solution is a way, not the way.
Oh, and they don’t get high on their own supply.