Turn Your Thinking, Change Your Life

In the Monday blog this week your homework assignment was to think about a situation where things are not going your way.  I recommended a 5-Step process for you to walk through to see if you could turn your negative thinking into a positive explanatory style. Why is it important for you as a leader to become skilled in turning your negative thinking toward the positive? Perhaps we should ask the Congress back in the late 1700’s what they thought of George Washington’s performance.

The most conservative estimate of the numbers I could find for General Washington was 8 wins & 6 losses. In the American Revolution he won Boston, Harlem, Trenton, 2nd Trenton, Princeton, White Marsh, Monmouth, and Yorktown. He lost New York, Kip's Bay, White Plains, Fort Washington, Brandywine, and Germantown.

Some scholars even put his record for wins in the 4 to 5 category.

Let’s let the historians argue this one, we are more concerned about what lesson we can learn about leadership. 

With some of the losses, (especially New York) coming early in the war, it would have been so easy for him to just quit. Give up. Forget it. Say it was not worth it. But he never did.  There was a burning inside of this leader to see the war through to the very end because it was the right thing to do.

He did not quit when things were down, and Congress didn’t quit on him either!

Congress did not fire Washington because things were not going the right way, they got help for him. Enter the French into the war to change the entire picture of history. This, along with Washington’s insistence on his troops receiving the smallpox vaccine about which John Adams said “…smallpox is ten times more terrible than the British, Canadians, and Indians together.”  (mountvernon.org)

The general had a couple of weaknesses.

Disease was an obvious one. The second was a lack of funding and Naval power.

Washington and Congress worked together to resolve the issues, not change out the leader.

In an interview with Harvard Business Review (June 2014) Twitter CoFounder Biz Stone was commenting on what boards tend to do when things are not going the way they think they should. “If things don’t look so good, they change the executive.” His advice to the readers of the interview is to resist this temptation. “Let’s not fire the CEO, let’s help the CEO. Let’s figure out where he’s weak and make him stronger."

Question: Are you thinking negatively about the performance of someone in your organization?

Rather than firing them, why not display some impulse control and get them the help they need? Why not figure out what they need to be stronger and give it to them?

I know there are times when it seems like you have no choice but to make a change in your organization. If that is you, perhaps the advice of Biz Stone is some of the best I have ever read on the subject.

“Even when it’s necessary to change CEO’s, it can usually be handled much more gracefully than it is."

Grace! An interesting concept. The simplest definition for grace I have ever heard is "giving someone something they do not deserve."

Assignment: Show someone grace in your organization next week. See what that kind of leadership might do for morale in your organization.

Have a great weekend,


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