Business owners and CEOs always want to think the best of the relationship with their clients. They’re so sure their customers will never leave because they’ve been with them for years….or because of a supposedly “special” relationship they have. Then, the bottom drops out. The fact is, business is business, no matter how much they like you!

Too many business leaders simply don’t reason through important issues. They don’t take the time to evaluate an issue from all sides. Leaders often jump to the first conclusion, whatever the evidence. Even worse, C-suite leaders will practice selective perception-whatever supports their prior beliefs. These C-level execs have a lack of metacognition; the awareness and understanding of their thought process. Basically, they become overconfident without thinking things through. Their critical thinking skills are lacking.

The good news is that critical thinking is a learned skill. Research has found 3 things you can do to improve this skill. You may think you already do these-and you might-but are you being as thorough as you think you are? Let’s see, shall we?

1-Question Assumptions
What things do you assume your clients need? What do you presume about how your clients work? What they charge for their products and services? When was the last time you took the viewpoint of your client or even your client’s clients if they’re a wholesaler or a B to B business? Of course, it’s hard to question everything. Imagine going through your day asking yourself: Is the sky really blue? What if the person next to me isn’t my colleague but her doppelganger? How do I really know that my phone isn’t being tapped? Not that I want you to become paranoid but questioning everything is great practice for critical thinking. The first step in questioning assumptions in business is figuring out when to question assumptions. Turns out, a questioning approach is particularly helpful when the stakes are high.

So, if you are brainstorming with your client about long-term strategy upon which years of effort and cost will be based, be sure to ask basic questions about your beliefs: How do you know that business will increase? What does the research say about your expectations about the future of the market? Have you taken time to step into the figurative shoes of your customers as a “secret shopper”? What about considering alternatives? You can ask “What if” questions: What if our clients changed? What if the suppliers we use went belly up? These will help you gain new and important perspectives that help hone your thinking.

2-Reason through logic
As individuals, we see the world through our own eyes and opinions, then through the norms of the society we grew up in. but if you’re dealing with country or worldwide distribution, you’ll have to widen your logical conclusions. Customers in different countries have very distinct tastes and habits. You have to reason from the viewpoint of your customers.

The problem with thinking logically is, most of us suck at it. Really. Not that that’s always a bad thing. If we just thought logically, the advertising industry would go out of business! The fact is, all of our decisions come from emotion. Emotional Intelligence guru Daniel Goleman explains that our brain’s decision-making center is directly connected to emotions, then to logic. So, as any good salesman will tell you, we decide with emotion and justify (read: fool ourselves) with logic. Critical thinking starts with logic. Logic is the unnatural act of knowing which facts you’re putting together to reach your conclusions.
So when you’re working towards your answer to your conundrum pay close attention to the ‘logic’ constructed by a particular argument. Ask yourself: Is the argument supported at every point by evidence? Do all the pieces of evidence build on each other to produce a sound conclusion? Be aware of common fallacies that can screw with logical thinking. Just because incident Y followed incident X that incident Y must have been caused by incident X.

For instance, a manager may believe that their sales agents rack up more sales in the spring because they’re fired up by the motivational speeches offered at the annual sales conference in February — but until that assumption is tested, there’s no way the manager can know if their belief is correct.

3-Seek out diversity of thought and collaboration
It’s a natural thing for people in a company to be affected by group-think. It’s natural for people to band themselves together with people who think or act like them, especially online. Social media algorithms can narrow our perspectives further, serving up only news that fits our individual beliefs.
This is a definite issue. If everyone in our social circles thinks as we do, we become more rigid in our thinking, and less likely to change our beliefs based on new information. Just watch and listen to political news!

It’s crucial to get outside your personal bubble. That’s why it’s important to meet and talk with those who are in different departments or who have different backgrounds and beliefs. You don’t have to agree with everything they do or stand for, you just have to have an open mind and listen. Training yourself this way will help you escape your usual thinking and gain richer insights.

In team settings, as a high level executive, hold off on giving your opinion until you hear others. Let the opinions fly with no feedback. Then utilize all of them to come to a conclusion.

While these simple tactics may sound easy or even obvious, they’re not often used to their full potential in the business world. Too many organizations don’t take the time to engage in full-bodied reasoning. Plus, allowing all those out-of-the-box ideas from other sources will keep your people engaged and excited and your clients satisfied your company has their best interests at heart.

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