Being Mindful of Your Leadership Default Settings

When you open your computer each morning, your email looks a certain way, your web browser makes it easy to get to your favorite web sites, and your desktop looks however you like to see it organised. This is because, somewhere along the line, you or one of your IT staff programmed these as the defaults you will come back to time and again, thereby making clever short-cuts a real time-saver in a busy global executive leader’s routine.

But much like the instructions plugged into our laptops and desktops, it is important for global leaders to recognise that past successes and failures alike could have the same effect on our own day-to-day leadership and management tendencies if we are not mindful of how habit and comfort can shape the path in front of us. These intellectual and behavioral “default settings” can be sources of exceptional performance yet also the catalysts of tremendous failure.

Take, for example, one executive’s view that the incredible performance of a person he or she recruited from a big, brand-name corporation during their tenure with a former employer now qualifies a potential new hire from the same big-box company for a different job with the executive’s current employer as a “can’t miss” candidate. Or that a process or system that worked earlier in his or her career will apply fabulously at his or her new enterprise. Or that a strategy that won the day years ago in a different industry will transform and elevate the competitive dynamics in an entirely different market space. Or that a certain tone or sense of direction that rallied the troops on another corporate battlefield will have the same effect on the next one.
It is important to remind ourselves that “going back to the well” – that is, reverting back to the things that served us well in the past – may make all the sense in the world, or no sense at all.
Sure, it is hard to figure out in advance which of our brainstorms, departmental re-sets and flirtations with innovation will yield results. What might be easier to sort as we tackle complex business problems and opportunities is our own self-programmed ideas and opinions about what might work.

Sometimes, particularly in organisations that lack effective structure and process, what worked for a leader in a past life may actually help bring order to the organisation. But as good as that might appear in the short-term, the stakes for eventual failure may also increase. That is precisely because as the leader applies what worked before, he or she may lose sight of how his or her default decision-making may create a myopia to new, innovative ways of doing things in a new operating environment.

If you’re reporting to an executive leader whose use of the words, “Well, we used to do this at my old company and I think it will work here,” is becoming part of his or her everyday language, be forewarned that the risks of failure or simply falling behind the competition are real.

And if you find yourself reverting back to your own professional history a bit too often in search of answers to today’s tough corporate challenges, remind yourself that opening your mind to new possibilities and new solutions that take you outside your comfort zone might be just what you and your organisation need to succeed today.

Copyright © TRANSEARCH International 2016

 

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