The Power of Changing Our Minds

I was so smart. I knew the best distribution model for an electronics product  we had developed in the late 80s. It didn’t work.

Great leaders don’t always know everything and pursue the course originally set with no deviation until the end. Al Pittampalli, a management consultant, witnessed so many leaders delaying decisions through endless meetings that he concluded what was needed from leaders was single-minded consistency and pursuit of a way forward.

Then he discovered he was wrong. The best leaders today obtain constant feedback by whatever means it takes to get it. They honestly weigh the feedback, painful though it may be, and are prepared to change course if necessary to achieve the desired outcome.

His work is documented in Persuadable: How Great Leaders Change Their Minds to Change the World.

The small group is reading through the book of Acts of the Apostles. Reflect on the number of times Paul says he wants to do one thing or visit another city and then he changes his mind and goes elsewhere. New facts enter the picture, he considers them, prays about them, and is not too proud to change course and go another direction.

Pittampalli writes about a therapist who was working with an overweight, depressed teenage girl. He asked her to fill out a simple evaluation each session so he could get some feedback. The evaluations were always overwhelmingly positive, yet by the third session he could tell that they were making no progress.

He noticed that the score for “helping me achieve my goals”, although 86 out of 100, was much lower than every other score. He asked specifically about that. She said that he had ignored her goal of becoming a Miami Heat cheerleader.

Ah, breakthrough. He went back and started acknowledging her goal. No, she didn’t become a Miami Heat cheerleader. She did organize cheerleading and fund raising for the basketball team at the agency that sent her to counseling, though. A clear win for the girl.

As for me, that company went out of business before I could get enough feedback to change–even if I had wanted to. But I think I’d have gone with the flow if another avenue had opened. But we needed immediate sales. The computer board was already almost a year old when they hired me. I had about six months before the technology would need updating.

My boss didn’t understand the dynamics of the computer business almost 30 years ago. You needed updated products every six months to a year. Kind of like today. My iPhone 5s was getting pretty obsolete after 18 months. Now I have a new iPhone 6s 😉

The key to leadership, and probably to achieving your personal goals, is soliciting–yes, even demanding–feedback. And then making adjustments based on it.

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