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Jason Furness

Management

Four States of Mind, Part 1

The problem

Published: Monday, July 17, 2017 - 12:02

I have been obsessed with how to lift both myself and others in pursuit of a goal for more than 30 years. Ever since I began to play competitive cricket as an 11-year-old, the issue of how to improve performance has been an almost daily question I have asked myself.

How to bring the complete team along on the journey of change is the question that I am now continually asked. I know it keeps leaders lying awake at 3 a.m. as they wrestle and struggle with how to get their team on board with the latest change initiative. How to bring on the board the people who “resist change”? What about the ones who are “negative”? What about all the other variations in perspectives on the issues we face?

Before we get into this, we will have a brief recap.

A friend of mine, Matt Church, summarized the three roles of a leader as follows:
1. Transform fear into confidence
2. Create clarity from chaos
3. Mobilize people to move forward to a better future

Now to develop this further: How can this be put into practical use?

Draw the first two roles of a leader as the x and y axes of a graph. Illustrating the roles of a leader in this way gave me a breakthrough on how people can look at the same information and have vastly different conclusions and recommendations. So much of our thought processes are impacted by the point of view and perspective we bring to a situation.

Draw a cross in the body of the graph so we divide the diagram into four quadrants. Looking at this diagram, let’s now work our way through each quadrant and its opportunities and challenges

Bottom left

“Much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid.”
—Fyodor Dostoyevsky

If you start at the bottom left section of the model, here is where we are in both fear and chaos. You may think this quadrant is not a nice place to be. It is a very normal place to be when a new project or situation confronts the organization. This may be a place where you spend some time on many issues; however, it is an absolute disaster of a place to stay. You may visit this place; you definitely do not want to live there.

When an individual or organization is in this bottom left quadrant, they are often in a state of bewilderment. People do not know what is happening next, they see chaos all around them, and they are living in fear.

Being bewildered is a state we have all felt at times, especially when facing something for the first time. You are on high alert for everything and burn up a lot of energy trying to figure out how to react to the situation. Remaining bewildered for a long period of time leads to exhaustion. When we are exhausted, yet still in chaos and afraid, we can give up. We move into submission, shrug our shoulders, shut ourselves off from the situation, and go through the motions. This happens to organizations also.

A prolonged period of chaos and fear amongst people leads them to bewilderment, then exhaustion, then submission. Pulling yourself or your team up from a submissive state can take a lot of energy.

Top left

“When the mind withdraws into itself and dispenses with facts, it makes only chaos.”
—Edith Hamilton

The top left quadrant refers to scenarios where there is a lot of chaos occurring, combined with a lot of confidence.

The best description I have of this is when I coached my sons under-12 cricket team. I had 13 boys and girls running around carrying bats and balls, all talking at the same time and all telling everyone else who was listening (no one was listening to anyone) how good they were. Can anyone relate to a scenario like that occurring inside their business? I certainly can.

Although this occurs collectively, it is also true that individuals can behave in a chaotic and overly confident manner.

What’s the danger in this organizationally? The two great dangers are that we can rush down a path that is just plain wrong. We fail to clearly consider the consequences of our actions before we start off. We then change direction abruptly and head down another path that may be just as poorly considered. Lurching in one direction then another, we lose our people’s trust, and performance does not improve. Usually performance deteriorates when there are many directional changes.

The second danger is most common at a tactical level. Misjudgements causing accidents or severe hazards can often be traced back to a failure to be absolutely clear in either risk analysis, training, or planning, combined with an ignorant confidence about the activities being undertaken.

“I’m a good driver so speeding is OK” is an obvious illustration of this combination.

Tomorrow we will explore the right-hand side of the model and, most important, see the combination that is the most productive approach to take to achieve forward motion toward our goals.

Discuss

About The Author

Jason Furness’s picture

Jason Furness

Jason Furness, CEO and founder of Manufacturship, is an executive coach who provides lean manufacturing training and lean consulting in a pragmatic, hands-on way that gets clients results in a fast and sustainable manner. Furness oversees the development and delivery of Manufacturship’s curriculum, leads the mentoring of business owners and managers, and sponsors all client projects. During his 20-year career he has led 30 transformation projects for small and medium-sized enterprises. Furness is the co-author of Manufacturing Money: How CEOs Rapidly Lift Profits in Manufacturing (Amazon Digital Services, 2015).