Monday, October 13, 2014

What Got You Here Won't Get You There

One of the greatest mistakes of successful people is the assumption, "I am successful. I behave this way. Therefore, I must be successful because I behave this way!" The challenge is to make them see that sometimes they are successful in spite of this behavior.  ~Marshall Goldsmith

One theory (I'd like to say fact but I'll withhold that temptation and stick with theory) nearly everyone agrees upon is that the most effective leaders don't have a specific behavioral profile or personality type.  The most effective leaders are those who know how to adapt their behavior to given situations and circumstances.  That's why when researchers and psychologists make a list of the U.S. Presidents and assign a behavioral profile to each one, there is no pattern.  The profiles are all over the map.

Marshall Goldsmith, without a doubt, is one of the most credible authorities on this topic.  He's the author or editor of 34 books, has written two New York Times bestsellers and a Wall Street Journal #1 business book of the year.  He's a top-ranked executive coach and one of the top ten most-influential business thinkers in the world.  So when Marshall Goldsmith says things like, "I tell my clients, 'it's a lot harder to change people's perception of your behavior than it is to change your behavior,'" it's got a boatload of reliability behind hit.

If all of this is true, and I'm going to assume that it is, then why do so many leaders resist or outright refuse to better understand how they are perceived and look for ways to change their behavior?!  I've had both MD’s and PhD’s refuse to complete some type of personality or behavioral profile.  I've had president's of organizations refute the findings of employee satisfaction surveys and 360 assessments with rationale like, "the survey was completed at the same time they may have been filing their taxes so they must have been in a bad mood."  

Who we are is who we are.  It is not good or bad, helpful or hurtful.  However, if we don't recognize that because who we are remains somewhat constant as the situation or circumstances around us change, we are going to run into trouble. 

Example: someone who is highly detailed and scrutinizes everything may be great in an entry-level accounting or finance position.  But, once promoted to manage others, that same behavior, if still practiced with the same intensity, could be viewed as micromanaging and severely hinder their ability to manage and lead others.  We must adapt.  And, we won't know how to adapt if we don't let others tell us how our behavior is perceived. 

If we want people to change their perception of our behavior, then, we need to change our behavior.  It's both that simple and that hard.   Sometimes we're successful in spite of ourselves.  Image what we could accomplish if we willingly welcomed a better understanding of the impact of our own behavior!

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