On a good day, being urgently summoned to your boss’ office will have you excitedly optimistic and expecting to be acknowledged for your good work or perhaps requested to lead an exciting new project. Oh happy days!
On a bad day, being similarly summoned will have you feeling tense and nervous, expecting a reprimand about something or other, or maybe even worse, a termination. And there go your stress levels through the roof!
What’s the difference between these two scenarios? There’s just one thing…
It’s you—or rather it’s your interpretation about what something means.
So consider this: Things don’t have meanings in themselves—we give things meaning.
Now, if things don’t have meanings in themselves, you therefore need to stop asking, “What does this mean?” even if you’re only asking yourself that question.
So the first mandatory leadership thinking habit is…
Stop asking yourself, “What does this mean?” Start asking yourself, “What am I making this mean?”
Your Thinking Is Largely Creating Your Reality
Here’s the thing: You can create a reality that works well for you, works well for others and works well for the greater good.
Matthieu Ricard, a Buddhist monk, says that our minds are like gardens and they’ll grow naturally. But if they’re uncultivated, they’ll be influenced by the weather and whatever seeds are in the wind.
Attend to your thoughts and cultivate a healthy garden—that’s the second mandatory leadership thinking habit.
What You Give Your Attention To Grows
Let’s say you’ve decided that a team member’s behaviour was highly self-interested.
Later that same team member walks by wearing, what you perceive is, a smug expression.
What sort of lens are you now seeing that team member through, because of your earlier interpretation of their behaviour?
Or, another example—you’ve decided that the market for your business’ products is getting better. So what will you notice?
You’ll start perceiving “evidence” justifying your decision about the health of the market.
And remember—you would’ve started perceiving evidence supporting the contrary if you had of decided the contrary were true.
Therefore the third mandatory leadership thinking habit is: Ensure your interpretations are accurate, not misinterpretations built on expectations you’ve formed because of earlier perceptions.
We Human Beings Need To Be Right!
Just one more snippet about what goes on in our heads…
As human beings, we want to believe that our interpretation of an event is the correct interpretation.
We need our assessment to be correct so that we’ll have a sense that we’re in control of our world—and feeling like we’re in control of our world has us feeling safe and secure.
(As I quite often say, we adults are like small children in big bodies. Don’t worry—that’s not just some of us. It’s all of us.)
Your Leadership Call To Action
Let’s take this thinking beyond intellectual thought…
- Will you habituate asking yourself the question, “What am I making this mean?”
- Will you attend to your thoughts and cultivate a “healthy garden”?
- Will you ensure your interpretations are accurate, not misinterpretations built on your expectations?
I’m enjoying receiving your comments and requests for support, consolation, encouragement and collaboration. Keep them rolling in.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Carolyn Stevens has worked with leaders for more than 25-years—hundreds of them.
She’s supported leader after leader (including those who previously struggled to confront the difficult, let alone persuasively deal with the it) flourish—and become confident, courageous and impressively influential.
Carolyn is authentic and results-oriented. She draws on an eclectic array of approaches, tools and techniques to suit the situation.