About a month ago, I received a jury summons in the mail, upon which I gave the proverbial eye roll. “How can I get out of this?” was the first thought that ran through my mind. I was chosen for a civil case that would keep me out of the office for five days.
After coming to peace with my frustration, I found myself engulfed in the responsibility that had been bestowed upon me. It turned out that being swept away for a week as a juror allowed me to reflect on skills that impact the success of a leader and a team. Here are five critical leadership skills that are highly relevant to leaders that I came to understand better as a juror:
- Listen Openly: When you are not allowed to talk in a courtroom as a juror, you are forced to listen openly. Great leaders and team members listen with the intent to understand first, rather than listening with the intent to speak or reply. Although this was extremely difficult, see if you can practice your “juror” listening skills during your next meeting or conversation with a colleague.
- Validate All Perspectives: During the five-day trial, I was able to hear from expert witnesses such as the coroner and the civil engineer, as well as the mother, the passerby and the defendant. Each had their own story to tell. Whether or not they were stating fact, assumption or opinion, each brought their own angle of the incident. It was my responsibility to allow everyone to share their story. Great leaders take time to validate perspectives and hear both sides of a story before reaching any conclusion.
- Apply Critical-Thinking Skills: Jury duty reminded me that thinking critically is nothing more than deciding if a claim is true, partially true or false. Great leaders and teams use this to actively reach conclusions based on reason and parcel through observations, unstated assumptions and values, misinterpreted data and evaluate arguments. Thinking critically allows great leaders to decrease prejudices, biases and the risk of making mistakes.
- Let Go of Assumptions: I had a lot of assumptions of jury duty all thanks to great television programs such as CSI and The Good Wife. I had assumptions of what it meant to serve as a juror as well as prejudices of criminals and civil attorneys. I had to relinquish these assumptions when I walked through the courtroom door. Great leaders and effective teams let go of all assumptions and thoughts of who is right or wrong. They also are very aware of the biases and prejudices that they bring into a team or a situation. Check your assumptions at the door.
- Finding the 5%: Although I was uneasy about missing a week of work, I approached this situation and applied my 5% rule: When great leaders find themselves in a situation that is less than desirable, they try and find the 5% of what is great about the situation.
I found a lot more than 5% during my week of jury duty. I learned about new technology, civil engineering, mathematics and much more. I was able to check my prejudices and assumptions at the door each morning and listen intently, muddling through facts, opinions, data and arguments. I also made a few new friends from my fellow jurors. So, next time you are called for jury duty, don’t groan or mumble, see it as an opportunity to practice these five critical leadership skills.
Have you served on jury duty and evidenced other leadership skills that could easily apply in the business world? Let us know!
Shawna Simcik, M.S., CMP, Managing Partner, OI Partners Denver
Working in partnership with clients, Shawna designs custom career transition and leadership development for individuals, teams and corporations to address and attain sustainable, business results. Shawna is an active member and Board Director with the Colorado Human Resources Association and a 2011 and 2012 “40 Under 40” Nominee. Shawna holds a BA in psychology from the University of Colorado at Denver and a Master’s degree in Industrial-Organizational Psychology from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She is certified as a Career Management Practitioner through the Institute of Career Certification International. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.