One of my biggest challenges around leadership communication is that everyone doesn’t see things the same way. Sometimes I’m surprised that what seems obvious to me isn’t clear at all to other people. And sometimes people just disagree with my way of looking at issues. When I’m working with teams I need to challenge myself and my colleagues to be open to many different viewpoints.
There are a variety of tools and strategies that can help individuals and teams stretch into new ways of thinking. One of my favorites is Edward de Bono’s six thinking hats. If you’re not familiar with the tool, check out the Six Thinking Hats book or the description on MindTools. Of course, my own style makes some hats fit me better than others. Here’s how I approach the tool. What might work for you?
The white hat is about information and data. I like this hat a lot, but I’ve learned that I’m picky about the accessories; I prefer words to numbers. So I have to be sure I’m looking at everything I should. On the other hand, I really like information, so I also need to be clear about when it’s time to stop looking at data and move on.
The red hat is about intuition and emotion. This hat is less comfortable for me, and I have to remember to pay attention to people’s reactions. Who will care about this decision, and how can I help them feel positive about it?
The black hat reminds us about potential down sides to a decision. Nothing is perfect, so how can we plan for what might go wrong? Remembering the black hat is very helpful to me when seeking and hearing critical feedback about my plans.
The yellow hat is about positivity. This thinking style helps individuals and teams keep going when things get hard. I have to admit my yellow hat is pretty shiny and new. I need to use it more often. I also seek people on my team to help provide this view.
The green hat represents thinking creatively. This is my favorite hat. Mine is well worn, with embroidery and beadwork designs scattered on it. (They’re mostly unfinished, but that’s another story.) I need to remember to focus my creative energies around the problem that needs to be solved. I also need to help other people see my vision. And most important, I need to know when it’s time to quit brainstorming, put on the other hats, and get things done.
Which of these hats is your favorite standby? Which one needs more attention?
Dee Anne Bonebright