It’s What Is, Not What Might Be, That Matters!

How to build your ability to be objective.

A common mistake made by managers is to equate what they think with what they know. But there is a world of difference, let me explain.

At the core of this is being able to differentiate between the objective and the subjective perspective of the matter to hand. Take the phrase, “This happened and it is bad”.  This consists of two impressions. The first – “This happened” – is objective; the second – “it is bad” – is subjective.  

The difference between the two is what you see (objective) and what you perceive (subjective). The former is simply is what is there, the latter is how you interpret it. The former is strong in helping you address the problems or opportunities, the latter is weak.

As managers and leaders we need first to understand the reality of the situation as it is. Not as we think it might be. You cannot get to grips with what you need to do, or how you are going to deal with a situation, if you cannot understand it properly. So be objective, this requires you to remove the “you” – the subjective part – from the process of consideration. This is not hard to do – just think of a time when you have given advice to a friend or colleague. When you do this the problem is clear and the solution is obvious as we are not encumbered with all the ‘baggage’ that our friend or colleague has when looking at it.  It is case of being able to see the wood for the trees, and only then do you start to think about possible solutions.

Four Steps for Being Objective

There are four steps you can take and use with any problem or opportunity you need to consider or evaluate. These are:

1Look at the problem/opportunity and pretend it is not happening to you. Ask yourself, “If this was happening to my friend, what would I tell him/her?”

2. Assume the problem/opportunity is not important.  This makes it easier for you to know what to do.

3. Think of the ways that someone (not you) could solve this problem/opportunity.  This is about gaining clarity (e.g. “What would Richard Branson do?”)

4. Repeat the process.  Doing this will help you to develop your “objectivity muscle” and to help you see things for what they are.

Doing this on a regular basis helps you to develop your objective vision and make it strong, rather than depending on your myopic subjective vision.

So what are you waiting for to get started?  Try this for yourself. Don’t forget, if you find this hard, then you can always phone a friend and ask them – they will be objective for you!

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