There is an old joke in the world of stress management and it goes like so.
Do you know the difference between a rut and a grave?
Right now I am meeting more and more people in leadership positions who are falling into ruts that are extremely deep. Some of them could even end up being graves.
Stephen Covey in his book, The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness (Free Press, 2004) reminds us that a Habit = Knowledge + Attitude + Skill. As he writes, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In those choices lie our growth and our happiness.” Our challenge as leaders is to know when we are in getting into a rut, and to be more conscious when we encounter the space between stimulus and response.
Marshall Goldsmith in his book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful, Hyperion, 2007, writes that cognitive dissonance is “the disconnect between what we believe in our minds and what we experience or see in reality.... the more we are committed to believing that something is true, the less likely we are to believe that the opposite is true, even in the face of clear evidence that shows we are wrong.”
One way to prevent ruts from becoming graves and cognitive dissonance from becoming the new normal is to do the following. First, build and maintain a cohesive leadership team. Patrick Lencioni was 100% on the mark when he noted this in his book, The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive, Jossey-Bass, 2000. Such a team can engage in spirited and robust dialogues, generating new perspectives, ideas and insights.
Second, work with an experienced executive coach who can ask in-depth questions and share meaningful perspective. This will cause one to reflect and reconsider rather then simply to move forward at a blinding pace.
Third, read quality resources and participate in exceptional on-going learning opportunities. When we connect with these kinds of resources and people, we continue to build new perspectives and understanding. This continues to pull us out of our ruts and to explore new territory.
As Joel Barker reminds us, “... when something is impossible to achieve with one world view, it can be surprisingly easy to accomplish with a new one.” I hope this fall you explore and consider many new world views. It will help you to stay out of ruts that could end up becoming graves.
Geery Howe, M.A.Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer inLeadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational ChangeMorning Star Associates319 - 643 - 2257