Leaders should know how to ask questions and think critically to drill deeper in team and client conversations, ultimately driving towards success. Critical thinkers assess situations from every available angle, fully answer team member and client questions, and build a consensus around a common set of values.
Critical thinking is the ability to organize information logically to make a reasoned judgment. It involves the evaluation of data sources, facts, and other research to make a reasonable conclusion by connecting the dots.
The best critical thinkers possess some shared traits:
• They are curious and want to know more
• They look for connections between different pieces of information
• They remain open to different perspectives
• They self-reflect on their own biases
• They embrace creativity in creating solutions
• They are self-confident
Leaders need to help their team members develop more deliberate thinking, considering the necessity of critical thinking in any successful business. The result will build relationships and develop trust.
Talk to your team members about their daily tasks and ask them to identify which tasks require critical thinking. This not only demonstrates you care about the work but that you care about them. Encourage creative solutions; these allow your team to build off each other’s ideas to arrive at a better answer.
When your team members pinpoint the tasks that require deliberate thinking, help them uncover any problems they are facing, and then show them how to best approach these problems. You may use a five-step process that involves asking basic questions, collecting vital information, questioning underlying assumptions, evaluating existing evidence, and developing conclusions. You can also use the “5 Whys” method, or you could use brainstorming.
Work to overcome cognitive biases. Our brains naturally take mental shortcuts to explain what is happening when there is limited information. Doing this results in not having the full picture. Critical thinking requires having as much information as possible. This will create the environment better to relieve pain points for your team and clients.
Applaud your team members’ efforts in thinking through possible solutions. The goal is to help them become confident in their problem-solving endeavors. As confidence grows, team members will feel empowered to take smart risks and solve more difficult problems independently.
Finally, leaders should offer feedback and help team members formulate their thoughts. Even experienced critical thinkers can wrestle with clearly communicating when they must share their findings. Articulating the problem and possible solutions is crucial if the entire team will be engaged and focused on creating an answer for the client’s or customer’s pain point.
Critical thinking is a skill that can be developed and refined. The more your team members practice thinking critically, the better they become at it. With so many changes frequently happening in the modern workplace, it pays for everyone to be adept at critical thinking. When you take time to encourage your team members to practice thinking critically, you pave the way for continued success and upward mobility–and this will help you thrive.
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