The other day, my daughter showed me a video of a young girl performing a song on America’s Got Talent. For those who’ve never seen the show, the talent judges interview the performers after their performance. Simon Cowell (one of the judges) asked the girl how she had chosen her song and she revealed that her father — who has stage 4 colon cancer — loves to hear her sing this song. After watching the video, I noticed that a number of the comments cynically challenged the veracity of her story claiming that “her tears were fake,” “her parents’ tears were fake,” or that she lied about her hometown life, etc.
In today’s Wireboard article, I want to:
As Steve wrote last week, we’ve been thinking a lot lately about the concept of “risk” in our work. And so, as Rewire’s “R&D Fonzi” (my unofficial title), I get to plow headfirst into whatever I can get my hands on that will help individuals and teams understand how risk is impacting their work. I’ve gotten to spend hours and hours reading and thinking about things like judgement heuristics, game theory, prospect theory, etc. Eventually, I’ll bring my findings to the team and we’ll construct training workshops, team-building exercises, and tools for clients to use in order to turn a specific approach to risk into a competitive advantage for their work.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the crucial role that paradox plays in high-performance culture. Today I want to tease one particular paradox that is absolutely necessary if we want to get better as individuals and teams in our work:
I want to tell you a story. Actually, “story” might be the wrong the word. “Confession” is more like it. I received some tough news recently in the form of a rejection. And since one of our convictions here at Rewire is to practice what we preach, I have had to examine my own thinking in the face of receiving difficult news.
It was Fall 1979 and my dad and I had just finished the last leaf raking and lawn mowing of the year. This meant it was time to empty the gas out of the mower's tank and put it away for the winter. But we had a problem: the little handheld pump on the syphon that we normally used for such jobs was busted. Turning the mower upside down to pour the gas out was really not a viable option and leaving the gas in the tank for the Winter would mean a non-starting mower come Spring (since the gas would go stale by then).
The more I go on in life the more I realize how much I thought I knew that ends up being not quite right. I can’t tell if it’s funny or scary just how much stuff I used to subscribe to and now see as silly or even completely wrong-headed. Took me a while, but I’m getting better.
Having profound convictions about something or a deep-seeded belief is a really great thing. It gives our decision-making a needed frame of reference and can help carry us through tough seasons in our work. Countless leadership books speak about developing a culture of conviction or some similar idea.
Did you realize that we all awaken everyday and believe that we are right about everything we think? What I mean by this is that every moment, as soon as we wake, our minds start weaving together messages and beliefs (often at the unconscious level) that allow us to make choices and work in the world.
Rewiring our minds is often about challenging the manner in which we think about things. For example, I used to think that being a "conviction-driven" person was a great thing. Then I realized that it can also be very harmful if my so-called "convictions" are steeped in fallible thinking. I do not believe that we should swing some pendulum and not have convictions – that'd be no good either. But I do have to wonder how our convictions can lead to prejudices and judgements; how claiming convictions serves our deep need to be right. Being overly "conviction-driven" has led me down some crazy paths where, in the end, I don't listen to others and effectively judge them when they don't think exactly like I do.
Accountability is one of those interesting concepts that most everyone thinks they need but just as many avoid. We know we need it, but we go to great lengths to avoid it as well. And, even as I work with people in developing cultures of accountability, one strange component of this dialogue is how everyone seems to define "accountability" differently. For some, accountability is a harsh reminder of things we are not doing, and for others, it is a gentle reminder of key areas of strength. The very last thing I want to do is pretend that I have some all-inclusive, definitive answer for what accountability is. I don't -- or, at least, not one that I could do justice in a short blog. What I do want to point out is that Rewiring our minds means that we think about how we think. So, all I can do today is offer you a suggestion to think about what it is you actually think of accountability. Why do you think that? Is your definition of accountability congruent with the actions you take in life?