Unlearning to lead better
Life is habit forming – some good, some less so. And it’s irrelevant what stage we’re at in life beyond very early childhood. Or how high we rise in conventional terms. Chances are we’ll be hauling a raft of metaphorical matching luggage with us wherever we go.
As leaders some habits or preferences are useful to us. And there are times when these patterns of behaviour may be a barrier to our leadership and the progress of our team or organisation.
Take big picture thinking as an example. It is an invaluable leadership skill, but if our briefing of others is simply big picture we risk creating confusion as they search for the detail that will help them make sense of our vista and be able to act in service of it. What could be a great outcome may simply become mediocre, or worse, because we didn’t translate the whole canvas into a series of manageable and understandable pixels.
Maybe we have a habit of mulling stuff over for ourselves rather than involving others – driven by an introspection preference. Then we forget to explain our thinking. Though context is important to others we’ve skipped this stage yet we’re still perplexed by the resistance or disinterest decisions encounter.
We all have patterns, preferences, habits that serve us very well. As leaders though we need to ensure they serve others well too. It is vital is that we can spot our habits in play and start to change those that don’t help. And that means developing a new approach – one that has awareness at its heart, fuelled by habits of reflection, of seeking feedback, of connecting with and involving others.
Opinions vary on how long it takes to break an old habit and form a new one – anything from 21 days suggested in the Maltz book ‘Psycho-Cybernetics’ (pub. 1960) through to an average 66 days according to a 2009 study published in The European Journal of Social Psychology. The time taken is different for each of us. Whether your window is 21 days, or 66 days or longer imagine the difference in the world after that time and investment. Now what’s the habit you need to change?