I noticed something about myself. I change my mind a lot. I’ve noticed something else. I change my mind faster than I used to. What does that mean about me?
I’ve only recently become comfortable with this idea. I had to challenge my own self-concept of what good leadership is. I used to think consistency was king. In order to lead with conviction, I needed to stick with my positions and advocate for them vigorously to the end. Or did I?
What if I encounter new information? What if I assimilate a new piece of data that challenges my previous assumptions? Do I ignore those promptings to save face, or do I incorporate them and evolve my thinking? I’ve embraced that latter, and I think you should too.
Things to change your mind about
I change my mind about people. Sometimes I get a bad first impression. Sometimes, I let an uncomfortable interaction define a relationship. I’ve learned that people are complex. I’ve learned that sometimes my first impressions are wrong. I’ve turned working relationships around so many times, that I simply cannot permanently make up my mind about people based on initial instinct.
I change my mind about technologies. I have all sort of opinions about which technologies are good and which are bad. I know which technologies are immature and which are enterprise-ready. I used to be a cloud-skeptic, and now I’m leading the charge to the cloud.
I change my mind about organization design. Every time I make an org change, I think to myself, I’ve done it! I’ve created the perfect org design. And I’m right. The organization functions better. Then time passes. Then circumstance change. Then needs evolve. Then I start to see a new pathway. Then a new concept starts to form in my mind. Was my old design wrong? No. It was right for the time. Then the times changed. Now we need a new design.
What does this mean?
Does that make me fickle? I don’t think it does. New information is coming at us every day at a blinding rate. I absorb that information, run it through my mental maps, and see if anything changes. Most input confirms what I already know. Some challenge my assumptions. When that happens, I seek more input. I seek to understand what new way of describing the world accounts for this new information.
I recently read an article that just so happened to be published not-so-recently. Seven years ago, Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, advocated that changing your mind is an admirable leadership trait. This quote from a Forbes article captures the idea perfectly:
“It’s perfectly healthy — encouraged, even — to have an idea tomorrow that contradicted your idea today.… the smartest people are constantly revising their understanding, reconsidering a problem they thought they’d already solved. They’re open to new points of view, new information, new ideas, contradictions, and challenges to their own way of thinking.… This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a well-formed point of view, but it means you should consider your point of view as temporary.” — Jeff Bezos
There’s some interesting science behind this idea. If you’d like to fully understand, read the article here.
What not to change your mind about
I change my mind about people, methodologies, strategies, organizational designs, and technologies all the time. I do not change my values. Those are not relative. They are timeless.
So, at the end of this article, here’s my advice for all of the leaders out there: Change your mind. You have to. If you don’t, you will become an obsolete dinosaur and you will lead your team into oblivion. If you want to be stubborn about something, then be stubborn about your values.
Hold everything else a little looser. You never know when you’ll have to contradict your former self. That’s a humbling experience. That’s okay, because being humble is what leadership is all about. So, don’t think you’re too cool just because Jeff Bezos calls you smart.
Read this article on my blog site: https://zachonleadership.com/i-change-my-mind-a-lot-what-does-that-mean/