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Insights from the past year

Margaret Beaton

Insights from the past year comes with my best wishes to all readers of Letting Go. Stepping Up.

I’ve selected these insights from posts of the past year to highlight my clients’ opportunities and challenges.

The virtue of gratitude

When was the last time you said thank you to a member of your staff, a service provider, or your partner? I mean truly said ‘thank you’ in the way you expressed your gratitude, even if the reason for saying ‘thank you’ was in response to a mundane act? Were your words perfunctory and robotic? Or did they generate a positive emotion in the recipient ­– and in you? For far too many people, saying thank you is now just a sign of good manners, rather than a virtue. Gratitude in its deepest sense has largely been lost. Don’t let this happen to you.

Being grateful requires you to pay constant attention, to be in the present (mindful) and to appreciate the gifts you have in life. When you’ve lost one of your gifts, it’s most unlikely you’ll recover or replace it. Treasure things now. Being grateful is virtuous. (January)

Challenge your mental models 

Mental models determine your thought processes about how things work. They shape your behaviours: how you work, solve problems, relate to people and think about yourself. Mental models are ingrained, fixed structures founded in your beliefs, habits, scripts, and biases. They tell you what’s worked for you in the past – and therefore what you should do in a particular situation now. However, these mental models pose a challenge. Albert Einstein was among the first to put his finger on the problem when he said: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”. you need to think differently. Much of what you’ve learned over the past decades, you need to unlearn. It’s no good fine-tuning and continuously improving your current mental models; they keep you stuck in the past and reinforce the status quo. When you unlearn, you relinquish what you already know or believe to be true, and you choose a new and different mind-set. (February)

Use unconventional strategies to reinvent yourself

Use unconventional strategies to reinvent yourself refers to the fact that more and more people are seeking major changes in their lives and careers, i.e. to reinvent themselves. Whether it’s at the stage of the so-called mid-life crisis or later, when the conventional age of ‘retirement’ arrives, the prospect of this change engenders feelings of confusion, loss, fear, and worry. The conventional way is linear, Analyse–Plan–Act. First, know what you want to move to and then using that knowledge, execute a strategy to achieve your goal. The unconventional way is to make changes by practical doing, not first thinking and introspecting, that is to ‘get out of heads, we need to act’. Growing as an adult, including making major career changes, requires questioning and commitment. These unconventional strategies will help you question and drive your commitment to make the change when you find what you are looking for. (April)  

Stay relevant as a successful leader

In stay relevant as a successful leader, I stress the importance of developing on the job. You can never stop seeking stretch assignments and taking advantage of on-the-job opportunities to improve. Research shows in today’s and tomorrow’s worlds, leadership success depends on your curiosity and willingness to risk and step out of your comfort zone. I cite an outstanding white paper from the Center for Creative Leadership that describes five facets of continuous learning.

The first four facets enable your learning agility and therefore your ability to adapt and therefore remain relevant. And the fifth impedes it, as the graphic illustrates (with acknowledgment to the Center for Creative Leadership). The opportunities and threats caused by waves of technology, globalisation, supply chain disintermediation, attitudes and demands of talent, and rapid changes in markets and customers mean that your current skills are not a laydown misère for your future prosperity. In fact, your current skills are much less important, many even irrelevant, than your ability to learn, adapt and – in the genre of start-ups – to pivot. (June)

Confirmation bias clouds our judgment

Confirmation bias is the well-known tendency to selectively attend to information that will reinforce pre-existing beliefs or ideas while ignoring good evidence to the contrary. A synonym for confirmation bias is myside bias, one of the most important and insidious of the many forms of bias with which we need to contend. A decision is a course of action you deliberately choose from a number of alternatives to achieve your organisational, managerial or personal objective.

If the information on which you rely to make a decision is incomplete, distorted, and/or incorrect, it’s easy to understand why the remaining steps will likely be flawed or compromised.

We see data that reinforces our worldview and we take this confirmatory data as given, as accurate, i.e. we say to ourselves I already know that. We treat it as the truth. It’s also easier because it requires less mental energy, less time. The reason we are susceptible to this bias lies in our need for cognitive consistency especially when evidence is new, complicated or unclear. This cognitive shortcut promotes efficiency especially under pressure to decide, to make complex choices with trade-offs and to act in short turnaround times. (August)

Christmas kangaroosWith my best wishes to you all

Margaret

This post was written by Dr Margaret Beaton, a director of Beaton Executive Coaching and Beaton Research +
Consulting
. You can also find Margaret on LinkedIn.