Thursday, March 24, 2011

Servant Leadership Practice--Break a Habit

We are creatures of habit, so much so that it's hard for us to perceive situations in a new light. It's what I call the "Habit of Perception". Like any habit, it's hard to break. It doesn't take much to reinforce the habit either. For example, I can arrive at home "on time" for 14 out of the 15 days in a 3-week period, and my wife might say that I'm always late coming home from work. It's true I was notorious for being late, but I've gotten much better. However, one reinforcing moment is enough to maintain the habit.

This Habit of Perception enslaves us into thinking our staff hasn't gotten any better, or hasn't changed. It can also perpetuate our thinking that certain people are "always" stars or "always" creative. We will routinely perceive a sales situation in light of our past experience, which has created a Habit of Perception there too. I knew a sales guy who didn't trust customers' agreements, believing that they were all out to take advantage of us. He had some experiences that formed and then reinforced that belief. It took a long time to get him to take a different perspective on certain customer actions that had little to do with demolishing us.

Likewise, if we want to improve our organization's performance, we believe that the practices that got us here will work well again. Whatever our management style is, it works often enough for us to believe it works all the time, and there's no need to change. If we're a screamer, the staff is prodded enough times to accomplish something; screaming must always work, we believe. If we're laid back merely cheering others with "do your best!" people will contribute occasionally enough and strongly enough for us to believe that style works all the time. The Habit of Perception is a trap that we need to get out of.

"Think outside the box" has now become a cliche. But it's worth considering different perspectives and not just reacting robotically as we have in the past. As Covey says, we are response-able. We can choose how we want to address any particular situation. It doesn't need to be the same as the last time.

Today, try exploring another option to a situation than you might have before.

For C12 and Truth@Work members, consider Paul's advice in Romans 12: "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind..." and he includes a promise if we do just that.

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