Discover how the Ladder of Inference can provide uncommon insight and understanding for inquiry and advocacy.
- How well do you really know what motivates, inspires, and engages your team? Would your read on the company's morale match an anonymous survey? Isn't it startling that 1/3 of all feedback produces a decline in actual work performance? That means one out of three times when we provide feedback, we're actually degrading performance. The further you move up in an organization, the more meetings you're in and the less time you have with your direct reports. That's why it's critical you ensure your communication is highly impactful. The question is, what do we need to do to ensure our communication, direction, and feedback is highly impactful? Creating the alignment of a high performing team is proportional to the number of assumptions you eliminate. To gain uncommon insight and mutual understanding, use the ladder of inference to better understand your own thinking process for advocacy and to understand others for inquiry. Consider the steps of the ladder moving from the bottom to the top. What do you observe? For example, I'm attending a meeting with 10 people. Based on what you observe, what data are you selecting based on what you value? For example, someone isn't paying attention. Check your assumptions. I guess that person doesn't care. How are you adding meaning, that is, your beliefs? That person isn't contributing to the conversation. What's your conclusion and what do you expect should happen? That person should be kicked off the team. What action did you take? I removed that person from the team. In this case, a person was removed from the team all because someone perceived as not paying attention. That person might not have been paying attention, but it's also possible that the person's body language and facial expressions were grossly misinterpreted allowing our biases to show up in terms of values, assumptions, beliefs, and expectations. That person could've been focused on a critical customer issue. That same situation could've been handled and interpreted in a very different way producing a very different outcome. It's easy to see how assumptions can lead to misunderstanding and misalignment and that's why it's imperative to take the time to understand others' point of view because effective communication is the framework for an aligned and purposeful culture. Values are at the heart of what motivates us and in order to influence others, we have to know what makes someone tick. Assumptions are what gets us in trouble. Beliefs can be the acceptance that something is true without data and that's why it's critical we listen to discern beliefs from facts. Expectations are what we believe others will do. Misaligned expectations are one of the big challenges with every team. Using the ladder of inference requires more than just observation, it requires discernment, a critical skill when interacting with others, especially given the finite time to interface and impact those we depend on.