"You become what you think, and people that work for you become what they think. And that's why leadership is the transfer of thought. Your job is to influence employee behavior. And to do that, you've got to influence their thinking. If your team is focused on the right thoughts, they're going to behave in the right way. But if they don't, they won't.
Thoughts fight for our attention. And there's three types of thinking: 'forward thinking', 'backward thinking' and 'chaotic thinking'. Now, in a recession, there's going to be a whole lot more chaotic thought going around. Their minds are going to race in different directions. They'll be easily distracted with "what if" scenarios and they'll worry about "worst-case" scenarios.
You might be familiar with the 'freeze, fight or flight' response. When facing a threat, people either 'freeze', 'fight', or 'flee' the situation. And when people are consumed with chaotic thinking, they tend to freeze. They disengage and take a wait-and-see attitude. Their backward thinking is going to have a strong gravitational pull, too. Backward thinking is the enemy of progress. It embraces the status-quo and it resists change. It wants what's familiar, certain and predictable.
But progress requires change and change is unfamiliar, uncertain and unpredictable. When people are influenced by backward thinking, they tend to fight or flee. They resist change or they avoid tougher challenges. But progress requires people to embrace change and lean into discomfort.
So, that brings me to 'forward-thinking', which is focused on making progress. Within all of us, there's an innate pull forward and a natural survival instinct. It's our inherent need to grow, improve and adapt. So your people are flooded with these competing thoughts: forward-thinking, backward thinking, chaotic thinking. And the best way to help them is to share your way of thinking.
You're dealing with chaotic, backward and forward thinking, too. And each day you try to choose your more useful thoughts. You need to explain what you're thinking and why you're thinking that way...the reason, what's your motivation? That's your 'why'.
Remember, leadership is the transfer of thought. And as a leader, you have to help your team choose between chaotic, backward and forward-thinking. Encourage people to share their thoughts, be empathetic and non-judgmental. You get their struggle because you're living it too. But when you listen, acknowledge, and then share your way of thinking and the reasoning behind your thinking - your 'why'. People will naturally gravitate to your more forward ways of thinking.
They'll follow you forward. And that's what leadership, especially in a recession, is all about."
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