One unique way successful managers help people achieve their goals is to help them reconcile cognitive dissonance, i.e. the disconnect between what they believe and what they experience or see in reality. Right now, many people in the work place are experiencing cognitive dissonance. This is especially true, notes Marshall Goldsmith in his book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful, Hyperion, 2007, because 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. As he explains, “people will do something - including changing their behaviors - only if it can be demonstrated that doing so is in their own best interests as defined by their own values.”
One way successful managers do the above is to help people close the gap between understanding and doing. From my vantage point, I have seen this happen when managers do not tell you what to do or think, but instead help you to learn how to think through your own challenges and problems. As has been noted many times in this blog, people and organizations have very specific needs when they are outside their comfort zone, especially when working on stretch goals. We, as leaders and managers, can help them by making sure the following things are in place, i.e the support of a team, a clear strategic perspective, and a psychological safety zone for strategic dialogue. When this is consistently generated over time, then people do a better job of achieving their goals.
For those of you who are seeking a big picture perspective on how to manage through chaos, you may find the following article helpful: “Secrets of the Flux Leader: How brilliantly managed chaos sparks success inside Nike, Cisco, Foursquare, Intuit and more” by Robert Safian in the November 2012 issue of Fast Company Magazine. Here is the link: http://www.fastcompany.com/3001734/secrets-generation-flux It is an article that will make you think given it explores some of the core ideas of Margaret Wheatly, a person whose work we have explored in the From Vision to Action Leadership Trainings and in numerous From Vision to Action Executive Roundtables. This article may not be one that leads you to taking specific leadership actions at the end of reading it, but opening your mind to new perspectives is always worth the time and energy. In particular, I did enjoy the section of the article called “The End of Coddling” which focuses on the leadership of Angela Blanchard, CEO of Neighborhood Centers, a large non-profit based in Huston that delivers $ 280 million of services each year to 340,000 needy people along the Gulf Coast. I just loved her explanation of “FIO jobs”, i.e “Figure it out. That is the job.” Overall, a good article which will make you reflect and think. Happy reading!