- Companies battle an invisible force called the "Spin Cycle"
- It has 5 contributing factors - "change", "uncertainty", "surprise", "stress" and "breakage"
- The Spin Cycle is a threat to high performance
- It infects individuals, teams and functional silos
- The Spin Cycle is highly contagious and spreads cross-functionally
- Companies often get stuck in the Spin Cycle
- Management's response to the Spin Cycle can backfire
- Specific leadership skills are needed to beat the Spin Cycle
The Management Brain
The brain has 3 modes of operation - "rational", "emotional" and "habitual". They work together producing thoughts and triggering behaviors, but the Spin Cycle often produces counter-productive thoughts and behaviors. More about the mgmt. brain
"Self-coaching" is a vital leadership skill. It's the ability to optimize your own thoughts, feelings and behavioral responses under adverse conditions. The goal is to keep yourself in a high-performance mindset. Coaching tips include -
- Accept your emotional brain - Once you accept (and expect) your emotional tendencies, you can begin to work with them.
- Empathize - Before you can work with your emotional brain, you need to understand how it feels.
- Let it vent - Once you let it vent (fear, panic, anger, etc.), it calms down and is more willing to accept self-coaching.
- Take a walk - you can distract your emotional brain with a walk or other forms of exercise.
- Talk it out - Use "sounding boards" to let your emotional brain vent out loud.
- Use facts - once you've soothed your emotional brain, use facts and logic (rational brain) to balance the initial emotional thinking.
How to coach your "habitual brain"
The "habitual brain" operates on autopilot, about 20x faster than the "rational brain". Think of it as mental software with pre-programmed thoughts and behaviors. Your belief system is an example of pre-programmed thoughts. "If/then" plans are an example of pre-programmed behaviors.
Develop your "belief system" - How you think about each element of the Spin Cycle is key. Examples -
- Change - "Change is inevitable"; "People don't like change", "People won't adapt until they accept", "My job is to help people accept and adapt"
- Uncertainty - "There are no guarantees in life"; "Don't worry about things that might happen"
- Surprise - "Surprise is an unrealistic expectation", "Surprises are inevitable", "Surprises aren't necessarily bad"
- Stress - "This is my emotional brain at work"; "It's easy to over react"; "There's no use worrying about it"
- Breakage - "Few things go as planned", "Performance is "We can learn from this"
If/then plans are pre-programmed behaviors designed with the Spin Cycle in mind. Examples -
- If an unpopular change happens, then I'm going to give people a chance to vent.
- If things are uncertain, then I'm going to focus the team on shorter term goals.
- If we get surprised, then we'll reassess our expectations.
- If I'm stressed, then I'm going to take a walk, let my emotional brain vent, and then challenge my emotional thoughts with facts and logic.
- If things break, then let's figure out the root cause.
Management's response to the Spin Cycle can actually create more spin. Examples -
- Micro-management - a common stress response is the psychological need for control.
- Death by meetings - the need for control causes meetings to multiply like rabbits. 🐰🐰🐰
- Analysis paralysis - micro-mgmt. and endless meetings cause decisions to bog down.
- Mixed messages - "change", "uncertainty" and "surprise" creates confusion.
- Acknowledge the spin cycle - the spin cycle is a competitive threat every company faces...
- Schedule thinking breaks - you need time each day to slow down, reflect, and self coach...
- Use the spin cycle - stress test your goals, priorities and plans upfront...
- Share your belief system - the more you talk about the spin cycle the better. When you do, always promote your belief system...
- Shorten your horizon - goals, priorities and plans tend to be longer term...
- Set process goals - most business plans focus on "outcome goals"...
- Fewer and shorter meetings - less is more. In the spin cycle, the habitual mind kicks into meeting overdrive...
- Manage up - it's a balance. You don't want to add surprises or breakage to your boss's spin cycle, but...
- Build bridges - change, uncertainty and surprise are often passed cross-functionally. Competing agendas and ulterior motives create organizational stress...
How To Start
- Are there signs that you're caught in the spin cycle? Your team?
- Where is your time and attention focused?
- What are your typical emotional thoughts?
- What thinking traps do you typically fall into?
- When it comes to the spin cycle, what are your current pre-programmed behaviors?
- Are your pre-programmed behaviors perpetuating the spin cycle? (micro-mgmt., death by meetings, analysis paralysis, mixed messages)
- How can your belief system improve?
- What "if/then" plans can you start with?
- What's the first thing you can do to help your team stop spinning?