The #1 Reason Why People Hate Change

Boundaries for Leaders

One of the most important boundaries that people have to establish is against the tendency to put off changes that they know need to be made. If you think about it, much “waiting” and putting off changes has nothing to do with “getting more information,” or “waiting until we get finished with a, b, or c.”

Obviously, it’s essential to gather data and do analysis, but many people allow too much lag time between knowing and doing….

Five Practices of Successful Thinkers

There are several dimensions to how successful leaders think that are important to know, but I want to focus on five especially. If you want to develop your thinking, the following practices will serve you well….

Adapted from Dr. John Townsend’s book LEADING FROM YOUR GUT: How You Can Succeed by Harnessing the Power of Your Values, Feelings, and Intuition.

How to Think about Your Thinking

So how can you become a wise, sober-minded person of good judgment—one who thinks rather than reacts and routinely utilizes internal as well as external data? Start by becoming an observer of how you think. It may sound strange to think about thinking, but it is important and helpful. You can begin to pay attention to your thinking by routinely observing your thoughts and by recognizing any cognitive distortions.

Life is chaotic, and sometimes too much information can cause confusion in an organization. As a result, leaders are under great pressure to think with focus and direction….

Boundaries and Your Brain at Work

Remember the old saying “Come on, this is not brain surgery”? It was meant to convey the simplicity of an answer or a concept, and often meant to prod people to get off their butts and do what is obvious. That is how it is with a leader’s boundaries. It is profoundly simple. You do not have to be a brain surgeon to establish the boundaries that are usually made by a great leader.

But at the same time, underneath it all, it really is brain surgery, because the reason that a leader’s boundaries work is that they actually make it possible for people’s brains to function as they were designed….

Setting Boundaries at Work

While I (Dr. Cloud) was consulting with one of the biggest companies in North America, an employee told me, “We would be so much better off if my boss would set better boundaries on what goes on with individuals on our team. He plays the ‘nice guy’ role too much, and as a result, the team suffers.” Surprisingly, a lack of confrontation goes in the other direction as well. One vice president told me something I hear often as a consultant: “I wish my people would come clean with me. I wish they would tell me what they really think. I wish they would be more open and direct. But they are scared to do that.” If you are like most people, you spend a lot of your life at work. Work is a place with many possibilities for stress, conflict, risk, and loss. It is a place where you put in the best of who you are. You are serving, and at times sacrificing, trying to please, and also establishing friendships on the teams with whom you work. So it naturally follows that you can experience some emotionally trying times there. In addition, you have a job to do. Sometimes,... Continue Reading »

Are You Ridiculously in Charge as a Leader?

Recently I (Dr. Cloud) was discussing personnel issues with a CEO. I asked him why he thought those problems were there. He talked about some reasons, most of which had to do with the various players involved, and also the “constellations” of a few teams. But then I asked him a simple question. “And why is that?” I asked. “What do you mean? I think it is the reasons I just said.” “I know the reasons you said, but why do those reasons exist?” I continued. “I don’t get it. What do you mean?” he asked further. “Who is the leader? Who is in charge of the culture? Who is in charge of the ways that it is working, the fact that all of that exists?” I pushed. He just looked at me, and nodded. “I am,” he said. “So what kind of culture would you like?” I asked. “What kind of culture would drive the business forward if you had it?” When he thought about that, he looked upward, lost in thought for a moment. Then he got out of the “problem-speak” mode, and I could see a shift in his energy as a new vision of a different... Continue Reading »

How to Regain Positive Momentum in the Midst of Negative Circumstances

I (Dr. Cloud) was addressing an organization in the aftermath of a financial meltdown. We discussed why so many people were feeling down, defeated, and unable to perform at the levels they were used to. (It is amazing how just knowing that there is a reason for why you feel the way you do can be helpful. I wanted them to know that they weren’t crazy.) But then, I heard the words that I never want to hear… “So, what you are telling us is that we are basically screwed,” an attendee said. “We are just going to feel this way until the economy is different. This is just the new normal.” “Yes, you are right,” I said. “This has become the new normal. And that is exactly your problem.” “What do you mean?” she asked. “Your creative drives, the energy that you summon to go out and win, have shut down,” I said. “You feel that since you can’t control the economy, you can’t control anything. And now that you have been feeling that way for a while, your brain has tricked you into thinking that that is the way it really is, that there is nothing you can... Continue Reading »

Feedback Is the “Breakfast of Champions”

Business management expert Ken Blanchard says that feedback is the “breakfast of champions.” Indeed, learning how we are doing and how to do better are keys to great performance. In fact, the best performance situations are when we are getting the most immediate feedback, which is from the task itself, as flow researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has found. The problem tends to occur at the moment when we actually get the feedback, either from other people or from the outcomes themselves. That is when our leadership character shows itself. While Blanchard gets it exactly right about the kind of breakfast we need, truth is that not everyone has the same appetite for breakfast. Some people wake up and really want it, while it makes others sick to their stomachs. Some are allergic to feedback. They set boundaries against constructive criticism. Brain research shows that feedback can do funny things to us if we see it as a danger or a put-down. We go into the “moving away” or “moving against” mode of fight-or-flight. The brain gets biochemically goofy. That is why you see people get so defensive and go to great lengths to fight any feedback. But remember, fight-or-flight only comes when... Continue Reading »

Nice Guys Don’t Finish Last

The Power of the Other

I (Dr. Cloud) had a very interesting conversation recently with a leader who accomplishes a lot and is very driven and effective. I have always been a fan of his work. We were working on a project together, and he made a reference to a particular work habit of his, logging almost every thought he has about his work into a very complicated matrix in a journal, and I asked him about it. Nothing wrong with carrying a little book around and jotting down good ideas when they come. But this was much more; it was obsessive. He said, “I think it’s probably part of my anxiety disorder.” I inquired more, and he told me that he had been managing a significant anxiety disorder for some time and had relied on a number of tricks and habits to keep it in check. As I listened, I couldn’t help being moved by how much effort it must cost and how distressing it must be for him to manage this condition. I also couldn’t help wondering how much better his life and work could be if he didn’t have to do all that. The psychologist in me had to speak up. “So,... Continue Reading »

The Secret Ingredients to Stellar Performance

Jack Nicklaus is the greatest golfer the world has ever known. His record of major wins is unsurpassed, even years after his last victory. Winning eighteen major tournaments is a record that is likely to stand for a long time. For those of you who are not golfers, that is the equivalent of more Super Bowls, World Series, heavyweight championships, tennis Grand Slams, or any other sports crown won by a single person or team. If you’re not a sports person, just call it the Oscars and think Katharine Hepburn. Of all of his feats, one stands out to me (Dr. Henry Cloud). It was in the 1972 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. On the seventeenth hole, he faced what he described as a howling wind, a 218-yard shot, and a three-stroke lead, which on a hole like that could quickly disappear. What happened? He hit the shot. The ball hit the flagstick and fell a few inches from the hole. Birdie! And a locked-up U.S. Open victory. (Google it. You will watch it several times.) In a career spanning so many years and so many victories, why does that one shot stand out to me above all others? Here’s the rest of the story. Nicklaus has described what happened in that historic moment.... Continue Reading »