I write this flying back from Florida where I spoke at a leadership conference about focusing on strengths rather than on weaknesses to drive greater growth and success. The audience of 175 leaders interacted with me and each other, asking questions that only deepened their understanding. They laughed at the right spots, even applauded at a few and were vocally appreciative as they came up to me at the end of the almost four hour session. So what's bothering me? I want to know who, if any, will change their leadership style and why.
Change is not that easy. Listening to information, no matter how compelling, rarely engenders the motivation to change our behavior. Even if everyone in that room was convinced that this leadership style would help them dramatically (and I'm not that naïve) most will only retain a rapidly fading memory of our time together and will most likely forget me and the session in three days. But what about the precious few who, believing in the efficacy of a strengths-focused leadership model, read a little more, create some goals and start adopting new behaviors? What makes them different?
I'd like to offer a theory. These individuals are able to either lower the defense mechanisms we all put in place to defend our egos, or momentarily put their egos aside. Look at little children. They are sponges for learning. With little to defend they absorb everything around them. As we grow, we learn to defend what we've accepted as real and our openness to new ideas closes up until some of us get to the point when we stop learning.
Of course being totally open to new ideas creates other challenges. We might end up believing in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or the tooth fairy. So, we do have to examine new ideas with a grain of salt. That being said, many of us use so much salt evaluating new ideas it is a wonder we don't die of sodium poisoning.
So what's the strategy? I don't know. If it were easy the world would be changing at a momentous pace because we'd all know how to identify and adopt new, helpful ideas and behaviors. I've found one strategy that works for me. When I learn a new idea or strategy that might help me develop as a speaker, leader, writer (I need lots of development) I don't tell anyone at first. I need time to analyze what I've heard, to sift through it and use my own grain of salt. That way, if I like and adopt the ideas, I'm more prepared to offer them to others in a cohesive way before they can bring on their shakers of salt.
175 leaders heard some new ideas this morning, ideas that could change their life or leadership for the better. How many will change? We will never know. But what about you and me? New thoughts, new ideas, new behaviors; what keeps you from embracing them and changing your life?