External frame of reference means you aren’t one to stick your neck out unless you can back up your decision or opinion with external reference points.
You value the insights and data of esteemed authorities like customers, board members, advisors, and consultants, and you also lean heavily on findings from credible sources of research and data. You’re known for saying you need to dig into more research or ask another team member before you make a choice.
It’s not that you’re not capable on your own, but having those external sources give you their stamp of approval gives you some additional reassurance. Your external frame of reference also means that you pay close attention to the expectations of others and feel motivated to meet or exceed them.
Your level of priority and importance to seek external references of data, research, feedback, advisors, and stakeholders for business decision making.
We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.
As the CEO of YouTube, Susan Wojcicki knows that she needs to make a lot of tough decisions. But, she doesn’t do so without gathering feedback and insights about how those choices impact others—specifically, creators who make their livings on the platform.
In fact, in a blog post published to the YouTube blog in 2019, Wojcicki explained that she tries to meet with creators everywhere she goes.
During those conversations, she collects their feedback about the challenges they face with YouTube, and she uses those external insights to make decisions about the future of the platform.
Robert Schaich is the founder, chairman, and CEO of Panera Bread. But in an interview with Inc., he described himself as “discoverer-in-chief.”
That’s because Schaich doesn’t make decisions about the future of the restaurant on his own. Instead, he listens closely to what customers want.
“I listen to people at dinner parties, on the street, in our stores,” he said in an interview with Fast Company. “I am looking for patterns of feelings and desires and aspirations.” That’s valuable information he uses to strategize new campaigns for the restaurant chain, rather than relying only on his own expertise.
In her role as CEO of General Motors, Mary Barra recognizes the value of soliciting feedback from other people—particularly her employees.
Instead of sticking with an internal frame of reference, she collects opinions and insights from other people to get a grasp on what’s happening and make thoughtful choices.
During a keynote talk at The Wharton School, she said the best way leaders can improve is to collect accurate information about their current reality. However, she warned that leaders can’t be totally reliant on an external frame of reference, as they need to determine which feedback is worth implementing, which shows a healthy balance with some internal frame of reference.
When you have an external frame of reference, you’re receptive to the opinions and perspectives of other people. That means you’re especially open-minded.
Because you back yourself up with external insights and data, you tend to make thoughtful and well-rounded choices.
Leaning on external sources means you can use outside information to poke holes in your own perspectives, identify areas that need refining, and improve upon your conclusions.
Always relying on other people and data to confirm your decisions can mean you lack confidence when you need to make a choice on your own.
Collecting perspectives and information from external sources can take time, which can cause problems when you need to make a speedy decision.
Because the opinions and expectations of other people mean a great deal to you, you can struggle when you need to make an unpopular decision or draw a contested conclusion.
Increase cohesion and collaboration in your existing team and attract top-tier talent with your stellar team culture.
Prioritize better, be more productive & increase creativity with big picture thinking.
Direct and author your decisions at work and in life with more confidence and less doubt.
Value and use your position or authority for awesome impact, and feel comfortable doing so.
Get in the habit of regularly asking other people for feedback and opinions. Run your ideas and decisions by them to hear what they think.
Of course, collecting those insights without doing anything with them will only breed frustration. After someone has contributed their own two cents, carefully consider what they’ve told you and implement what you find valuable.
Being able to reach a decision on your own is great, but justifying your point with a bunch of supporting evidence makes your conclusion even stronger.
So, make sure you’re taking some time to dig through statistics and data, listen to expert sources, and more. It never hurts to have that information in your back pocket, especially if someone questions your decision-making.
Someone with an external frame of reference won’t reach a decision and then ask, “Is this a good idea? Yes or no?”
Instead, they rely more on open-ended questions to collect the most valuable feedback from other people and shape their decisions. Use these questions yourself to extract the most meaningful contributions from your team members, customers, managers, and more.
Gathering information from external sources takes some legwork, and you’ll always skip it if you feel pressed for time.
So, make sure you’re building some wiggle room into your timelines for decisions and projects. That will give you the adequate space you need to use an external frame of reference, without missing your deadline.
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