A woman leader who I’m working with asked me recently to describe to her why a responsive, rather than reactive, state of mind is essential for leadership. I have many examples of how leaders have blown it with colleagues, at team meetings and with direct reports by becoming reactive rather than responsive. But what came to mind when she asked me about it was an experience I had from 2004-2008, working with a team at a very large manufacturing company.
This company had been struggling for a number of years, and was running very much in the red, due to high cost of poor quality and high company turnover. Before the introduction of our trainings, leadership behavior was characterized as harsh, arrogant, and frenzied, and those behaviors had become accepted as the norm. The more leaders treated people this way, the more insecure they became, which lead to even more mistakes and more people leaving the company.
We taught the leadership teams how state of mind drives performance. As they began to see the link between thought and experience, they realized that when they were upset or angry, it wasn’t coming from the performance of colleagues and direct reports, or from loss of profits, it was coming from their own thinking in the moment about company issues. As they settled down and became more secure, so did the people who worked for them, and the morale of the company improved significantly. Leadership began to get good ideas about how to empower their teams. During the period when this approach was used, sales and profit increased almost every year. Every year the performance targets for sales were increased and every year they were exceeded. *
Understanding the link between thought and experience allows you to see the direct connection between your state of mind and your performance. It’s a predictor of success both at home and in the workplace.