Marshall Goldsmith shares a story:
One night over dinner, I listened to a wise military leader share his experience with an eager, newly minted General, “Recently, have you started to notice that when you tell jokes, everyone erupts into laughter—and that when you say something ‘wise’ everyone nods their heads in solemn agreement?” The new General replied, “Why, yes, I have.” The older General laughed, “Let me help you. You aren’t that funny and you aren’t that smart! It’s only that star on your shoulder. Don’t ever let it go to your head.”
Marshall continues. We all want to hear what we want to hear. We want to believe those great things that the world is telling us about ourselves. Your boss is no different. It’s our belief in ourselves that helps us become successful and it can also make it very hard for us to change. As the wise older General noted – we aren’t really that funny, and we aren’t really that smart. We can all get better -if we are willing to take a hard look at ourselves. By understanding why changing behavior can be so difficult for our leaders, we can increase the likelihood of making the changes that we need to make in our quest to become even more successful.
In the video below Marshall shares his insight into “The Success Delusion”, a short but powerful video. When watching it remember, this not only applies to you but also to others – so remember that when you work with your team, your peers, your bosses and others.
Why We Resist Change
We all delude ourselves about our achievements, our status, and our contributions. We
- Overestimate our contribution to a project;
- Have an elevated opinion of our professional skills and standing among our peers;
- Exaggerate our project’s impact on profitability by discounting real and hidden costs.
Many of our delusions come from our association with success, not failure. We get positive reinforcement from our successes and we think they are predictive of a great future.
The fact that successful people tend to be delusional isn’t all bad. Our belief in our wonderfulness gives us confidence. Even though we are not as good as we think we are, this confidence actually helps us be better than we would become if we did not believe in ourselves. The most realistic people in the world are not delusional—they are depressed!
Although our self-confident delusions can help us achieve, they can make it difficult for us to change. In fact, when others suggest that we need to change, we may respond with unadulterated bafflement.
It’s an interesting three-part response:
- First we are convinced that the other party is confused. They are misinformed, and they just don’t know what they are talking about. They must have us mixed up with someone who truly does need to change.
- Second, as it dawns upon us that the other party is not confused—maybe their information about our perceived shortcomings is accurate—we go into denial mode. This criticism may be correct, but it can’t be that important—or else we wouldn’t be so successful.
- Finally, when all else fails, we may attack the other party. We discredit the messenger. “Why is a winner like me,” we conclude, “listening to a loser like you?”
These are just a few of our initial responses to what we don’t want to hear. Couple this with the very positive interpretation that successful people assign to (a) their past performance, (b) their ability to influence their success (as opposed to just being lucky), (c) their optimistic belief that their success will continue in the future, and (d) their over-stated sense of control over their own destiny (as opposed to being controlled by external forces), and you have a volatile cocktail of resistance to change.
So, as you can see, while your boss’s positive beliefs about herself helped her become successful, these same beliefs can make it tough for her to change. The same beliefs that helped her get to her current level of success, can inhibit her from making the changes needed to stay there – or move forward. Don’t fall into this trap!
As the wise older General noted, as you move up the ranks and get that star – don’t let it go to your head. Realize that every promotion can make it harder to change. Always balance the confidence that got you here = where you are – with the humility required to get you there – where you have the potential to go.
I am passionate about helping executives and leaders become more successful and, in doing so, help others become more successful in turn. As an accredited Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coach (MGSCC) I partner with executives and leaders to help them achieve real tangible improvement in leadership effectiveness and organizational performance.
To find out more and discuss this and other ways to improve leadership effectiveness and organizational performance further contact Andrew Cooke (MGSCC), call Andrew Cooke on +61 (0)401 842 673 or firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also find further insights and a wealth of material on business and leadership on Andrew’s other blog – Growth & Profit Solution Blog. There are also a large number of resources at his Blue Sky GPS Website, and these can be found Blue Sky GPS Resources.