Why do some of our most coveted goals go unattained, or appear perpetually derailed by corporate bureaucracy? According to conventional wisdom, we achieve the results we want by executing effectively. But what happens when our best attempts at execution run into common obstacles including resistant team members, inefficiencies, shrinking budgets, or impatient shareholders? At Handel Group®, we teach that blaming those causes diverts your attention from the biggest obstacle of all: your own inner dialogue.
The Impact of Inner Dialogue
The thoughts in your mind are like an unruly crowd at a sold-out sports stadium. It’s unclear who is rooting for whom, which teams are playing, or how exactly you’re keeping score. The clarity of your goal gets lost in the swirl in your mind.
This inner dialogue can take a variety of forms. Perhaps your version is a never-ending debate that delays concrete action. Or, it could be the self-doubt that sabotages a well-conceived business plan. Your voice might sound like a “brat:” I’m not going to beg him to get on board; he should see that my plan is superior! or I already spend so much time developing him, why should I have to deal with this too? Alternatively, it could sound like the voice of a “chicken:” They’ll never switch to our firm, we’re way too small to meet their needs, or I couldn’t ask for a raise this soon; I know I’m doing a lot more, but I’ve only been here 9 months.
Either way, these conversations are a destructive corporate schizophrenia: our mind sets a goal and then creates a dialogue that prevents the completion of that goal. We are at cross-purposes with ourselves! We rationalize that this banter is helpful, productive, and/or protective. In reality, though, it moves us further from our goals.
Getting Back on Track
Recently, an EVP of a Fortune 100 technology firm came to us for help because he was banned from interacting with the global CEO. He had botched a meeting with the CEO a few weeks earlier, despite his knowledge of his product and division. He also couldn’t seem to get his direct reports to treat him with respect, or follow his lead.
I immediately asked him to track his inner dialogue. What we found was that he believed that the vision for his Asia/Pacific region would fail and that he thought that the direct reports he recently inherited were simply lazy and unprofessional. I helped him see how he was setting himself up for failure by allowing his thoughts (and therefore his actions) to be out of alignment with his boss and the firm. I also helped him see where he was resigned and playing it safe, versus being willing to put himself on the hook for the excellence he truly wanted. I further showed him that if his inner dialogue told him that his boss’ vision was impossible, then his direct reports wouldn’t be inspired to follow him and would instead be out of sync with the company and other senior management. Once he examined his negative dialogue and saw that his fear made his dialogue seem real, we created new dialogue that supported his vision for himself as a leader.
Within the next 6 months, he was not only invited back to present to the global CEO, but he was also asked to speak to a key client audience of 1000 people. He exceeded his Q3 and Q4 targets, bringing his division’s annual revenue well above those targets he deemed unrealistic just 6 months earlier. Additionally, the shift in his dialogue resulted in a team that moved from disrespectful to collaborative within the same timeframe.
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Creating New Dialogue
The solution to taking back control is not to simply shift to “positive thinking,” because that just masks your real thoughts underneath that are driving your actions and results. No, you need to study the thoughts that you have to see which are not in alignment with the outcome you want. While that may seem obvious at first, it’s not common practice. Why? We don’t want to hear the chatter in our minds because it is mostly shallow, nasty, and brutal. Whether it operates like the judge and jury of others, or it is self-directed loathing or hopelessness, it’s embarrassing to admit we have these thoughts at all. Further, it’s humbling to have to face that our own negative thoughts sabotage our goals and dreams. Yet, challenging these negative thoughts is also the quickest way to regain your confidence and pride.
The Handel Method® is a proven way to counter your negative inner dialogue. If you find yourself freighted with needless discouragement, or if the attainment of your goal seems elusive, take the following steps:
1. Re-state your goal.
What is your primary purpose or end game?
2. Catalogue all of your negative thoughts on the topic.
Leave nothing out!! And have fun with it. Uncover your themes: Paranoid Pete, Self-righteous Susie, Martyr Mary, Elitist Eli, Blaming Bob, etc.
3. Talk back to your negative Inner Dialogue.
For example: In this client’s case, his argument was that his revenues were seasonal and his division was at the mercy of those cycles. I challenged him to consider any other untapped potential in his marketplace. Once he conducted a Law and Order style cross-examination of his negative Inner Dialogue, he immediately thought of another solution that was the key to his quarterly surge in revenue.
4. Set up a promise to respond to those negative thoughts whenever they arise.
You’re in a better position now to catch these little criminals so you should be able to spot them a mile away. For example, “If I entertain a negative thought, within 10 seconds, I must catch it and say ‘Hey, that’s just my inner chicken (or brat) talking!'” Or, you could have a counter-thought at the ready. One of my clients, since she is now aware of her negative voice, shuts down her mean thoughts about her direct reports by saying, “Stop! Love them, love them, love them,” until the mean thought vanishes.
5. Establish a corresponding consequence in case you falter, to keep yourself focused and vigilant.
Again, have fun with it. For example, if you whine that “your business partner is stubborn,” instead of having a productive conversation, then you lose your wine that night.
Our thoughts, both empowering and disabling, are ultimately self-fulfilling prophecies of victory or defeat. Before we can achieve success, however defined, we must sincerely paint a vision, in advance of its realization, and align our thoughts to our goals. At Handel Group®, we teach our clients how to neutralize their counterproductive negativity by exposing it to the light of day. Only then can we design our thoughts so that they serve our objectives and aim exclusively toward our success.