As I was enjoying the humour in another wonderful Dilbert cartoon this week (, I was hit by the nagging thought that there are many people in management positions who appear to think like this. They have a firm belief that they are ‘doing things right’ and so keep on doing more of the same, despite the fact that they are not getting the improved results they want.

Einstein felt that a definition of insanity was to keep doing the same thing, but expect different results. It makes no sense at all, yet is a widely adopted practice. Perhaps it is because, as leaders we have reached our position by doing things in a certain way, therefore doing what we know is somehow easier than taking the personal risk of trying something new.

However, doing what we have always done will only achieve the current level of results, if we want to step up and improve performance, we have to try new things. Understanding how others see us and the impact our behaviours have on them, is critical to recognising how taking a new path of action could achieve outstanding results. 

Learning about ourselves through feedback from those who work with us is the first valuable step to developing our leadership capabilities. Asking for, encouraging and supporting feedback from our team is vital, whilst recognising that it may not be easy for them to give. For many people, giving feedback to the boss feels a bit like corporate suicide, so they need to feel totally safe and secure in order to do it. When they do speak up, we need to thank them, without defending our position; otherwise they will never offer feedback again.

The next step is often harder. Now we know what we need to do to change their perception and experience, we are faced with a choice. Do we choose to learn more about ourselves, do something different, take a different course of action and potentially improve performance? Or do we choose to carry on as if nothing happened, behaving as if our way is the only way? 

Our leadership programme provides insights into the clear benefits of choosing small, but consistent behaviour changes. Many of our clients have seen significantly improved relationships and results. More importantly they are creating sustainable leadership environments within their organisations, where listening to and acting on feedback is the norm.

Emma Littmoden

Partner at Leadership Training provider The Living Leade

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