How can you be more effective without simply spending more and more time at the coalface?
This is a question that I know haunts many business leaders because it’s at the root of lots of conversations I have every day, both formally and informally.
How great would it be if you could achieve more simply by changing your thinking?
Well, I’m going to share with you the 5 most common thought processes that I find get in the way of leaders being as effective as they could be. And in doing so, I’ll help you realise that the seemingly impossible is possible – you can achieve more simply by changing your thinking.
The reason? It’s straightforward – what we think drives how we feel and how we feel drives how we behave.
To demonstrate this, just consider how you react when you think about a task you really don’t want to do. Reflect on how quickly you feel negative about it and how that drives you to put off getting on with that task.
Catastrophising occurs when something happens – or we think it could happen – and we immediately think of the worse case scenario that can result.
For example, our presentation doesn’t go as well as it could and we are convinced we’ll lose our job as a result. Or an important customer seems a bit off and we’re immediately certain we’re going to lose a major account as a result.
In such situations, it’s extremely unlikely that the ‘catastrophe’ will occur – but our conviction that it will stops us doing what we need to do and increases our stress levels.
Imagined slights or put-downs
Our egos are fragile and we will go to great lengths to protect them from blows. In fact, we’re so concerned this could happen that we watch out for any slight or put-down – and see them where they simply don’t exist.
The colleague who makes a jokey comment and we are convinced that he or she was getting at us. The harassed boss who dashes past us on the way out the door and we’re certain that he/she cut us dead.
Such thinking leaves us feeling negative about that person – and about ourselves. We end up using energy pointlessly as we ruminate on this imagined slight.
Echoes from the past
Despite all the encouragement to live in the moment the past comes back to haunt us regularly. We’re called into the boss's office and echoes from being called into the headteacher’s office drive our thoughts about what the purpose might be.
Or we find admonishment from our parents echoing in our heads when we fail to be as perfect or as productive as we think we should be.
Such echoes creep into our thoughts and quickly drive us to feel and behave like the child we once were. And that can really get in the way of taking the actions we need to take as the mature adults we now are.
You know that feeling that, somehow, you’re not really good enough for the job you have now – and that you’re just about to be found out? That’s called ‘imposter syndrome’ and it’s surprisingly common amongst even the most senior of leaders.
Imposter syndrome can really knock our confidence and lead us to behave with less conviction than our actual ability would enable us to do.
Ever find yourself thinking ‘I’m so tired/unlucky/clumsy’ or whatever other adjective you care to add about yourself. That label begins as a thought and quickly drives negative feelings as a result. And those negative feelings transfer into our behaviours quick-time too.
When we feel negative, we are less productive and our energy disappears as well.
The old rhyme that sticks and bones can break bones but names don’t hurt simply isn’t true.
So there you have it, five ways in which our thinking undermines our effectiveness. When you catch yourself falling into one of these negative thinking traps, actively change your thought process to a positive one – and watch your effectiveness follow suit.