If like me you studied biology in school you will likely remember the Kreb’s cycle. It’s a rather nifty process through which the body converts sugars into more accessible forms of energy. At the age of 15/16 I could likely have drawn the Krebs cycle blindfolded and tell you how many molecules of ATP were formed at the end. I can’t anymore.
Fast forward a few years and I was University studying Biochemistry and on getting into a discussion about the Krebs cycle during a tutorial all that I held to be true was dispelled with one comment from a Professor who shared the truth that what we had been taught at school was “a simplified version to enable you to pass your A-Level”. I was crushed and soothed my angst with some glucose diluted in strong continental lager. The more we continued with our studies the worse it became in that there were very few absolutes but many theories, speculations, conjectures and a myriad of things still unknown.
Once I joined the world of work life reverted to a ‘school Krebs cycle’ kind of mode. Opinions of others in the organisation were generally based on those of my boss. Firstly, because I didn’t really have much to benchmark them against, secondly, because I didn’t really trust my own judgement and thirdly because most serious interactions with others outside our team were generally initiated by my boss. Life was easy.
Then I started working in recruitment and my opinion was suddenly part of my trade. But (and there had to be a but) what made it easier was I wasn’t actually providing judgement, I was providing a viewpoint in response to requests for data (interview questions) and then allowing other people (initially clients and latterly line managers) make decisions. Life was slightly more complex but still relatively easy.
As my career has progressed I realise (and mostly with reflection) that my ability to form a view point on other people is probably one of the key elements of my role and here’s where life gets so much more difficult. There is not right and wrong there is only the subjective reality (or as some like to refer to it opinion). I have written before about the confidence required to express your own opinion here and the vagaries of the winners and losers internally here but a conversation last week has made me think more about this and I realise a few things:
1. It’s important to control for emotion in the formation of your opinion
2. Context is of course important but in forming your own judgement experiment with different contexts – it may help you frame a situation/person differently
3. When listening to other people express their judgements realise that they are of course being subjective. Try and articulate (to yourself) the factors that will have driven the formation of that opinion
4. Remember that everyone has good days and bad days…and so do you!
5. Act within your own personal values and the values of the organisation in how you enact your opinion
6. Be prepared to accept new data and allow that to impact your judgement (there are very few hills to die on)
7. Realise that at times your opinion may be a lone voice – that doesn’t make it wrong but it may make expressing it a courageous act
8. Understand that your opinion has value and so do other people’s. Treat theirs with respect and expect them to do the same
9. I know this is a values point but it’s worth expressing – don’t be a conniving political snake (technical term) in how you express your opinion
10. If you want to know someone elses opinion of you, ask them but be prepared for some home truths
Despite the fact that life is rarely easy and the transition to many versions of the truth has left it’s scars I think effectively managing your opinion, it’s impact and that of others is what makes what we do worth it. Otherwise it’s just a holiday spreadsheet….