Have you ever said things to yourself similar to these?

"They don't home teach because they are lazy."

"They don't visit teach because they don't know how to prioritize."

"Every week they are late. They must not understand the importance of sacrament meeting."

"We've knocked on their door for three months in a row. They must not want home teachers."

"Every time I ask him to do something he drops the ball. He must not care."

All leaders approach responsibilities with optimism. However, when things don't work out because others don't follow through we begin making assumptions about these individuals. We can't understand why someone isn't doing an easy home teaching assignment so we therefore attribute it to laziness, bad attitudes, or lack of faith.

You can thank the Fundamental Attribution Error for this type of thinking.

Fundamental Attribution Error—the automatic assumption we often make that the other person's motives are bad. This can happen when someone says or does something we think is harmful or threatening. We immediately attribute bad motive

I'm a big fan of the people down at VitalSmarts. They know their stuff about creating change and leading change. (More about them to come in future posts) I first learned about the Fundamental Attribution Error while reading their material.

While leading we sometimes become so frustrated by the inefficiency of others that we simply need something to attribute the lack of success.

How do we avoid the Fundamental Attribution Error with those we lead? According to our friends at VitalSmarts we simply need to ask ourselves a question. “Why would a reasonable, rational, and decent person act this way?” Regardless how you ask this question simply take a moment and step back from your judgment and figure out what this person needs. Start with yourself. What can you do to help them build skills necessary to complete the task and how can you help them better understand the task?

As a leader when have you let the Fundamental Attribution Error take over?

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