Does it ever occur to you how many “tapes” are playing in your head every day without even the slightest level of awareness? These are the little messages that subtly shape your beliefs and drive both your emotions and actions. Leaders need to be aware of their mental tapes in order to make sure that words, actions, and emotions are aligned with strategy. In fact, chances are when you take an inventory of the common tapes playing in your head, you may discover that some of them are counter-productive if not damaging.
In our leadership development workshops, we help attendees take an honest look at some of the tapes swirling through their minds that have a direct impact on how they lead, moment to moment. Once those messages are identified, they are asked to re-write any negative or counter-productive ones to be more useful. In fact, our Sr. VP of Consulting, Janet Schulz, developed an exercise for revealing the “oldies” (the ones on auto pilot) and converting them to a new “greatest hits” list (the ones you consciously choose to play).
I was recently doing this exercise with one of the clinical managers I am coaching, and we made a great discovery. One of her “oldies” was “Choose your battles,” which doesn’t sound bad at all. In fact, many of us play that tape to help us prioritize where to put our energy. But when we started to peel back the layers beneath her use of this tape, it revealed that she was playing this dozens of times each day to avoid uncomfortable conflict. The result was that her staff was deviating from the standards for service excellence. One example occurred when she witnessed one of her ER nurses being short and dismissive with a lab tech. Her gut told her she should step in and correct the behavior on the spot, but the tape played loudly, and she put her energy elsewhere. She reconsidered the event and admitted that she was ducking.
This ER manager went on to reveal several other incidents when she had ducked out of uncomfortable conflict when she should have intervened in order to send a message that everyone needs to conduct themselves in a consistently respectful manner.
When I asked this manager to create a new and more useful tape, she created one entitled
“Leaders don’t duck.” Now she plays this one first to remind herself to deal with undesirable behaviors quickly and consistently. She’s gaining confidence in her newfound strength and witnessing a greater level of accountability in her staff.
What tapes are you playing? Which ones are you choosing for your “greatest hits” list and which ones may need to move to the “oldies” group?