Hard-wiring 104: Black and white or Shades of Gray?


Do you like to have all the details or do you look for the summary or bullet points?

Do you like structure, or only feel rules apply to other people?

Welcome to another chapter in the book of hard-wiring!

At one extreme, we have the rigid rule followers. There are clear lines and they are to be colored inside of. There is a detailed handbook that goes along with this group, and they can sometimes be found wandering about in the weeds of any problem or situation.

At the other end, we have those who feel that rules apply to other people. There are clear lines, but they are adjustable. There are exceptions. That rule book is waaaay to wordy and detailed to be understood. They’ll be looking for the Cliffs Notes version. They have no use for the weeds and prefer to solve problems in the context of the bigger picture.

While these are clearly caricatures and extreme examples, I’m willing to bet you can recognize some shades of truth about yourself in one of those descriptions. As with all of our hard-wiring, situations matter, so you’re most likely to notice these things when it comes to new and unknown situations.

A few weeks before the pandemic shut everything down, I facilitated a workshop with a group of managers. The vast majority of the group operated more in the details and established ways of working. It was causing them to lose sight of the big picture, other possibilities, and bogging down their discussions. Because it was the majority of the group that operated that way, it was harder for the THREE people who could see the bigger picture to speak up. Group think is powerful! But once the group understood that their strength came from the diversity of their approaches, they were more willing to make space for all the voices at the table.

So how can you use this information to help you be more effective?

As always, recognizing where you are AND where those around you are is helpful in and of itself. The more you understand about yourself and your own tendencies, the better equipped you are to ask for what you need from others.

Being able to recognize the value in a perspective or approach that’s different from your own allows you grow and expand your own capacity. It helps us see the problem or situation from various points of view. It might even help us appreciate our colleagues more. What team doesn’t need that?

How do you see this show up? Has anything changed in this realm since remote working took over? If you’re now back in the workplace, have you seen any shifts? We’d love to hear your perspective and your experience. Stay safe out there.

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