In one of my prior roles at a large, global company, I had the opportunity to work closely with the Chief Customer Officer. I once asked him how he would describe his role. He said, “My job is to think.” On the surface it sounds simplistic. However, upon deeper discussion he revealed that he was constantly challenging himself and others to stop and think about long-held beliefs and the perceived, sacred ways of doing things that could have been limiting the ability to create different outcomes for customers.
We tend to operate from a place of beliefs that result in pattern behaviors. If not challenged, these behaviors may result in unintended outcomes or an inability to create desired outcomes. These evolve naturally from our experiences and are shaped by us discovering what may have worked repeatedly in past environments. How often do we stop and think about those beliefs, can we even identify them and do we know whether they are relevant and creating the right outcomes in our current environment?
Top leaders and top performers have identified that they need to do something different to get to that next level of performance. As Albert Einstein is often quoted, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.” So how do they get there?
- Ask for feedback: Ask your colleagues, friends and family to identify specific instances and the related behaviors that may have resulted in them feeling a certain way, good or bad or may have resulted in unintended outcomes. More importantly, remain open and willing to discuss their perceptions, non-defensively, and allow them to provide you with the gift of how you impacted them. You can also obtain feedback objectively and anonymously using a 360o assessment tool.
- Reflect on the feedback: After receiving the feedback, reflect on the situation. This is the “think-time.” Ask yourself: What was I feeling in that moment? Why was I feeling or reacting that way? Was there a long-held belief or viewpoint that caused the response or reaction? Did my actions achieve the right outcome? You may be surprised at what you find.
- Document the desired change: Once you have identified the limiting beliefs, write them down. From there identify the new approach you plan to apply and the alternate outcomes you wish to achieve. From there go back to step 1 to validate your approach with your constituents and ask for ongoing feedback to further your awareness and create accountability for continued change. You may even consider an executive coach to guide you through the process.
- Put think-time on the calendar: Just like eating lunch, going to meetings or working out, if you are not setting aside time to evaluate your approach and are just going through the motions, you will likely reach a stagnant level of competence. Honest self-reflection requires an honest response and honest change. As conditions change around us, we need to be in a position to evolve with them. This does not mean letting go of your core values or ethics, it means evaluating your approach, where it comes from and whether it drives the right outcomes.
Top leaders set aside time for thinking and self-development. It does not just happen as a matter of showing up every day. It is intentional, and identifying the underlying beliefs that can drive our behaviors is hard work and time-consuming. For more reading on this topic, you might consider What got you here won’t get you there, by Marshall Goldsmith. Think, challenge and perform!
Article by Tom Cox.