Typically hard-charging, with little patience for covering the basics, it is understandable why many busy professionals have given up on common sense. While easy to bemoan the lack of it, it is now foolhardy, perhaps even arrogant to take common sense for granted.
First, it implies the existence of a common denominator on which both parties can agree. In an environment where a senator thinks he’s beguiled the fundamentals of climate change by throwing a snowball; or the Pollyanna perched in gated communities, declare racism over, finding common ground can seem like a heavy lift. It is.
Executives can no longer pompously declare that their way is a “no brainer” because their opponents can just as easily charge, sometimes with merit, that it is the leader who has no brain. To arrive at common ground, the common purpose must first be found. This takes extra effort, but without that exertion, any agreement becomes contingent on luck. Common sense does not thrive on luck. As with basic negotiation, always seek the unifying goals and work toward achieving those together.
Second, common sense assumes an equal capacity to discern. It is unwise to predict someone’s discernment capabilities. Some people live in a black and white world, and others favor nuance. Neither viewpoint is inherently good or bad; it is situational. Just as rote learning can help facilitate the routine, critical thinking is vital to credibly call BS on faulty assertions.
Belying common sense occasionally eschews predictable results. Although ill-advised, indiscriminately changing a baby’s diaper on the hood of a car; or wearing a Yankee’s cap in Fenway Park, have both been known to happen without disastrous results.
Complaints about coworkers being responsible adults, not children and cries that they are not paid to be a babysitter, do little to mask the leader’s failure to have properly laid the groundwork. Although subtle, when they separate themselves from the problem and the solution, they weaken more than their leadership. If we continue rewarding those who divide to conquer, we allow less and less common to exist between us in which to make sense of in the first place.
The effective leader unites and moves with a common sense of purpose.
Don’t give up. Lead well.