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What’s Holding You Back?

Issue 81, Nov 10, 2022

An important part of 2040’s practice with our clients is to use an open mind in applying intelligence and solutions from one sector to another. The concept of systems thinking is to look at the world holistically and find the intersections of new ideas and trends that paint a larger picture of an organizational landscape.

By habit, we often become so focused on the day-to-day and keeping our nose to the grindstone that we don’t notice what’s around us. At 2040, we stress the importance of looking outside-in, a reverse perspective from being mired in the day-to-day hot mess of our lives trapped in our own version of reality that typically reflects institutional/legacy knowledge.

Taking the outside-in approach opens the window to consider how others perceive an organization and its offerings, which may be significantly different than what those inside the organization might believe.

Looking at the world holistically is an outside-in perspective and integral to systems thinking. The world and organizations operate on several types of systems. In our book, The Truth About Transformation, we explain how systems thinking clarifies the interdependent systems of the Macro (world, region, country, locality), Meso (the organization), and the Micro (individual workers, customers and stakeholders). We offer examples and advice on how to operate informed by a larger picture, which is so valuable to change, transformation, leadership, and management.

So, when we learned about a new study by Western Governors University of students returning to complete their education, we quickly saw the parallels between their barriers to continuing education with the barriers to personal and professional growth in organizations. The nine barriers identified by the study are often overlooked by management, with the unfortunate outcome of repressing change, transformation, and success. We cover more about the challenge of barriers and how to and overcome them in our book, The Truth About Transformation. Explore a free preview on Amazon. And if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited, you can download the Kindle version of the book for free as part of your subscription.

The barriers and ways to overcome them may sound very familiar, both personally and to teams, which leads us to believe that the barriers to success are pretty much universal although understanding them is often situational or worse, we are completely unaware of them.

Here, in reverse order are the results of the study reframed within an organizational context.

Tied for Ninth Place: Learning from Failure.

To learn from mistakes and misunderstandings while not becoming demotivated depends on having a “growth mindset” and the tools to turn mistakes into learning opportunities. Many individuals have a fear of failure and do not recognize that making mistakes, even when they are substantial, leads to learning. Life is a journey and an ongoing experiment, and although not all experiments lead to success, they do indeed result in learning.

Tied for Ninth Place: Engagement

Work can be boring. Successful workers make any project interesting so that they maintain enthusiasm for learning and advancement. We as individuals and teams want work to be interesting and challenging. Since work consumes over one-third or more of our time, being engaged and knowing that we are contributing to a shared purpose results in higher performance, self-value, professional identity, and commitment.

Eighth Place: Intimidated or Ineffective at Persuasive Speaking.

Being heard and influencing others raises one’s self-efficacy and feeling of belonging. This outcome depends on many factors, including having something to say, having a willing audience, and being thoughtful and organized. Keys to improving speaking are triggered by workers being asked directly for an opinion on a topic and managers responding authentically to the answer; providing a communication framework; and reinforcing strengths demonstrated by an employee when expressing their views. In The Truth About Transformation, our exploration of “Leading with Courage” sets forth the necessity for open upstream and downstream discussions, accepting criticism, and actively listening to others. Being heard is a two-way street as everyone around the table needs to be open, respectful, engaged, and responsive to others communicating their thoughts, opinions, and ideas. We then see and hear different perspectives, open our own minds to alternatives and most importantly learn.

Seventh: Lack of Role Models or Mentors

Employees with role models have a head start on building their identity as a professional. Lacking a role model may lead to lacking goals. Mentors can inspire workers by providing support, building trustworthy relationships, and sharing their own experiences and insights. We all play a variety of roles throughout the day depending on the environment, situation, or expectations. Whether an individual is a leader, manager, or colleague, they seek out those that may offer advice and guidance when they are new, less experienced or assuming a changed role. Mentoring and role modeling are fundamental to achieving a shared purpose.

Sixth: Focus on Creating Personal Meaning

A common mistake in the workplace is to approach work by rote instead of valuing meaning and applying knowledge to the process. Managers can help by practicing critical thinking and promoting systems solutions to unlock personal meaning in work. As a society we seek to improve humanity and our technological prowess to ensure the younger generations have it better than we did. Organizations are no different. Like society, organizations must evolve and change over time to remain responsive to stakeholders and provide meaning internally and externally.

Fifth: Not Having a Plan

Researching and reading without critical thinking can result in memorizing facts instead of understanding the context and purpose of the work at hand. Context in all aspects of our personal and professional lives is a necessity. In order to understand context, we must exercise our critical thinking skills, process, ponder, and derive conclusions based on the factors and variables that face us. Grabbing facts and datapoints without context in response to any situation results in faulty decisions and conclusions.

Fourth: Not Assertive Enough

Assertiveness reflects a confident spirit and contributes to persuasive speaking. Not being assertive enough leads to being passive and waiting to be told what to do. Passivity may also lead to poor time management and other problems where assertiveness would protect personal boundaries and goals. Consider the necessity to master how to have a complicated conversation that includes being assertive, respectful and thoughtful on how one’s words and gestures are communicated and received.

Third: Ineffective Time Management

If workers experience trouble prioritizing, they may default to procrastination. This in turn leads to impulsiveness, task aversiveness and delay and a lack of self-efficacy — the degree of belief in one’s capabilities to succeed.

Tied for First: Cramming & Scrambling.

Cramming to complete a project is the result of poor time management, procrastination or the fear of failure. Often procrastination stems from our inherent programming to conserve energy; sadly we are lazy by nature. Scrambling is often the response to stress caused by earlier failure to make sufficient progress on a project with a deadline. Cortisol and adrenaline are generated by stress and the anxiety given a tight deadline. Many would say they do their best work in a time crunch but does that best work represent only checking the boxes or is it substantive, contextual and thoughtful?

Tied for First: Life Out of Balance or Life Crises

When workers struggle with life crises and keeping their life and work in balance, they may stop communicating which makes it impossible to help them once the challenge arises. We have often written about the new rules of work established post-pandemic where there has been a sea change in how individuals want to work and where. Leaders and managers who hold onto a comfort level based on former expectations will continue to operate, lead, and manage in contradiction to what the workforce needs and wants.

The Truth About Transformation

We take a contextual, constructive, and substantive look at the barriers to success and ways to overcome them in our recently released book, The Truth About Transformation. We cover everything from goal setting, attainment and attitude to expectations and management. Check it out, explore the free preview and get a copy of this comprehensive organizational manual to help your teams exceed expectations, align to a shared purpose, and achieve high performance.

Get “The Truth about Transformation”

The Truth about Transformation Book Cover ImageThe 2040 construct to change and transformation. What’s the biggest reason organizations fail?  They don’t honor, respect, and acknowledge the human factor.  We have compiled a playbook for organizations of all sizes to consider all the elements that comprise change and we have included some provocative case studies that illustrate how transformation can quickly derail.

Order your copy today and let us know what you think!

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