More than we’d probably like to admit so many of our days are spent in a state of self-delusion, an internal monologue of justifying our actions, both good and bad. When we do something wrong, our evolutionary instincts kick in and we do anything we can to not acknowledge the obvious: sometimes, it’s all our fault.
Whether you’re selling a product, pitching an idea, or trying to get employees to do something different or do something in a different way, perspective-taking has become an essential element in moving others.
Over the last decade, social scientists like Adam Galinsky of Columbia University have deepened our understanding of perspective-taking. Their work yields three ways leaders can become more effective.
1. CHECK YOUR POWER. Galinsky and others have found that when people feel powerful, their perspective-taking abilities degrade. The more powerful we feel, the more we anchor in our own perspective rather than adjusting to another’s. And that can make others less likely to go along. But briefly reducing one’s feelings of power (“Maybe this employee I’m asking to do something needs our company much less than our company needs her.”) can increase the acuity of our perspective-taking, which in turn can make us more effective.
2. PERSPECTIVE-TAKING ISN’T TOUCHY-FEELY. Perspective-taking sounds a lot like empathy, but the two qualities are siblings, not identical twins. Empathy — the ability to understand another’s emotional state — is an essential human quality. But research has shown that, in commercial settings such as negotiations, understanding the other side’s thoughts and interests, not simply their emotions and feelings, can be more effective in forging a deal. So if you’re in a high-stakes leadership situation, definitely be emotionally intelligent. But use your head as much as your heart.
3. DON’T FORGET MIMICRY. Mimicking others’ posture, gesture, and expressions sounds like the sleazy tactics of a used car salesman. But ample research has shown that mimicry is a natural part of human behavior, an instinctive way we understand others. You can enhance your attunement skills, and thereby your leadership, simply by being conscious of how the other person is standing, moving, and talking and ever so slightly mirroring what they’re doing.
Humans tend to model the behavior they see. When leaders appear to be in control, know everything, never doubt, or never ask for help or input, employees think they have to do the same. The behavior they see and deem as acceptable is to be strong, not question, never be wrong, and always know. The opposite behavior is a sign of weakness and is unacceptable
Leadership and management are two distinctly different but complimentary skill sets that all companies need. Leaders make sure the organization is doing the right things, while managers make sure they do those things right.