While lots of us are smart – or at least think we are – almost all of us fall prey to the same common mistake of confusing effectiveness and effort. While effort is really important, the fact of the matter is that trying harder with the wrong approach won’t do much to make you successful.
Why is this important?
There are three behaviors as an executive and leadership team coach that I look for: is the situation diagnosed or understood correctly, are the right (e.g. the ones that will work) behaviors being used, and are those behaviors or actions delivered or done well. Trying only affects the delivery aspect.
To use a home tools analogy, it’s as if I had a Phillips screwdriver and was using it on a slotted (also called flat or straight) screw . I can try as hard as I want, but the Phillips screwdriver is not going to work well on a slotted screw.
The better strategy is to make a fair estimate of the type of screw head, select the appropriate screwdriver out of 15 or so possibilities, and try it properly. It should work – but if it didn’t (and assuming you’ve tried it the way it should be used), trying harder does nothing to get the results you want, and mostly likely strips (ruins) the screw head.
Far better that you try another screwdriver that might be a better choice.
Here’s a real life example.
I coached a general manager in Chicago who had a long-term employee who had some bumpiness in her performance. Every time he’d ask her to come into his office to talk about her performance she would (literally) start to cry. The conversations weren’t productive, and the outcomes weren’t very successful.
My suggestion was to have the conversation someplace else at the work location, preferably in a break out room where they could have some privacy. They did, the conversation went well, and the employee’s performance improved and sustained.
So was I so wise or savvy? Maybe.
But the tip-off, since I had a pretty good idea on the general effectiveness of the GM’s delivery, was that their was some bad history with the setting (the GM’s office) that blocked the employee from being able to have a productive conversation.
The “try something different” was to change scenery.
Given a different exec, the suggestion might have been to change the approach, or perhaps change something else about the situation. What I knew in the Chicago example was that a generally effective exec was not being effective with an employee in a particular office with a long-term employee.
While it helps me to have 25+ years of business experience working with people to know what things to alter, the point of the post is that if something you normally do that works starts not working, some part your diagnosis of the situation is likely flawed and you need to try something different.
There’s probably a proverb someplace that suggests that if you keep running up against the proverbial brick wall, look up to see if there’s a door that you can perhaps use to help you move through to the other side.
Something all of us should remember.