Recently a client asked me a question about change and I thought I’d share my answer with you. She’s a results oriented professional who said she was emotionally driven, meaning she trusted her gut to make decisions. She felt thinking everything through would bog her down, was she wrong?
Leadership is a set of influences that build upon each other. There’s a space between how we feel and the choices we make and that space if filled with our thoughts. They could be positive or negative, imagined or real, and we may dwell over them or they could be fleeting. Either way, those thoughts influence our decision making, and the quality of our decisions influence our behaviors, the actions you take.
I told her that she may have formed a pattern where the influence cycle came across so automatic and instantaneous that she didn’t even notice it. For routine tasks that’s appropriate. Contrast a 40 year old driver to a teen with freshly issued learner’s permit. The teen is still learning and hyper aware of their feelings, thoughts, decisions and actions, whereas the seasoned driver seldom notices any of those, unless something interferes with the routine, like a wrong turn or a mattress flopping down the highway towards them.
When you’re deliberately trying to change, slow the process down, that way if something is going wrong, you’ll know right away and you can backtrack to make a correction.
For example, if you made a poor choice, you can look back and see if it was influenced because of a poor thought process. That’s valuable for an after action review, but when you need to keep moving forward you’ll make the adjustment to change your influence on the next step. If you made a bad choice and that’s leading to poor actions on your part … simply change your behavior. Easy to say, not always easy to do.
The influence cycle can spiral positively or negatively into a self-fulfilling prophesy. When you want to change the direction, pick an area that’s easiest for you to work on. For many people, that’s not their behavior, it’s their choices. Changing your thoughts is automatic for some and foreign to others. Feelings are extremely hard to change because they’re instinctual, but you can change how you react to them.
Pick a spot in the cycle and do something different and watch as it influences several other steps.