A key attribute of positive & mindful leaders
By Declan Noone
“You’ve always had the power my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself” The Wizard of Oz
When faced with a problem, as leaders we go to our toolbox to find an aid that will help us find a solution or resolve the issue. The fast-changing dynamics of the workplace can mean that these tools and techniques, designed for a different set of circumstances, are out dated and insufficient to enable you to find a positive and pragmatic solution to the problem.
Why do we continue to use tools and techniques that were not conceived to meet the challenges of our VUCA world? Well, there are 3 significant contributing influencers:
- Risk Aversion: This is something which we all suffer from, and the tendency is for it to be more pronounced when there is greater uncertainty of the outcome. This is how we naturally react, we tend to try and mitigate the risks by reducing the risk. In doing so we are increasingly less likely to try something new or something outside of the norm. In essence, risk aversion is the ‘reluctance of a person to accept a bargain with an uncertain payoff rather than another bargain with a more certain, but possibly lower, expected payoff’. Risk aversion tends to be more prominent in a hierarchical organisation whose culture is best reflected by the ‘you are only as good as your last mistake’ adage.
- Zero Defect Mentality (ZDM): ZDM is something which many of us would have experienced unknowingly during our careers. It refers to a style of management in which errors are not tolerated at all. This mentality is predominant in highly controlled organisation. Indeed, a risk averse culture over a period of time will encourage the development of a zero-defect mentality. Research has shown that this style of management is ineffective in that ‘it stifles creativity, reduces motivation and creates a mind-set where employees don’t feel empowered by their successes or responsible for their failures’. There is certainly a significant amount of literature to show that ZDM is unsurprisingly prominent in militaries.
- Continuous Partial Attention (CPA): In essence, this refers to a mental state many of us find ourselves in throughout the day as a result of multitasking. Research in neuroscience is showing us that our capacity to multitask, and therefore the mind’s ability to multitask is in fact limited. However, the increasing demands placed on our senses and our attention result in us only being able to assign partial attention to a multitude of factors at any one time. The challenge with this is that we are never really fully engaged in any one task and as a result are less likely to move beyond a transactional mind-set and approach to a transformational mind-set and approach. As you can imagine, we in turn continue to work with what we believe works rather pausing, reflecting and examining alternative solutions to the same problem. We remain on auto-pilot.