Too old to change

I often hear from leaders that either they are too old to change or the team around them is so settled, that change is very unlikely.  Two different issues, but with one common factor – level of performance vs pressure.

Let’s look at the thinking of why a leader isn’t willing to change.  Some of the conversations can go like this:

  • “Why should I put myself through so much pressure at my age?”
  • “It’s not me that needs to change it’s my manager / team / the process / the organisation’s culture”. (Delete where appropriate)
  • “I don’t have the time / energy / brain capacity to take on something new.” (Delete where appropriate)
  • “It’s not going to make any difference to my career now.”

You’ve got the picture.  Seemingly valid reasons to not put yourself forward for a new project or role, or to stay put in a company you know doesn’t fit who you are anymore, or to just cruise until your pension kicks in and you can retire quietly and gracefully.  However, as a leader one key implicit role, is to be a positive role model – to demonstrate integrity in what you asking others to do, and be willing to do it yourself.

When we are saying no to opportunities as a leader we are often sitting comfortably in the ‘content’ range of the performance and pressure curve, not feeling any real pressure from those we work with or the organisation we serve, and whilst we believe we are doing a great job our actual performance will be lower than we realise.  After all, we know it inside out, there are no real surprises and we can then be available to help others who really need our help – but in our own time.

When a leader steps out of their comfort zone, at any age, they will feel the discomfort of knowing what they don’t know for a short time but will quickly feel the ‘stretch’ of learning and the positive impact that it has on their confidence, motivation and ultimately performance.  This has a positive knock-on effect to those around them.

So, what about the teams around us?  There will always be members of the team who see their role as a job, something that pays the bills and fits around family life.  They may be saying no to opportunities for promotion or taking a lead in a project because their internal chatter goes something like this:

  • “I’m happy doing what I do”.
  • “If it’s not broken – why fix it.”
  • “When I’ve got more time / energy / flexibility, I’ll think about it.” (Delete where appropriate)
  • “Give the opportunity to someone else, they’ll appreciate it more.”

In the same way as a comfortable leader, they may be ‘content’ or even at times ‘board’ in their role.  Whilst they may be getting the work done, they may not be looking for more efficient or effective ways to do it, there will be less willing to experiment and make changes. We know from the research of Fixed vs Growth mindsets how this impacts individuals, teams and organisations.

When faced with team members low on the performance vs pressure scale, leaders need to consider what small changes they can put in place that will take them out of their ‘comfort zone’ and into either a personal or professional ‘stretch’.  We often forget to ask our team what this would mean for them, so by simply asking them and putting them accountable for their development can be the first step to ‘stretch’ and being in the ‘learning zone’, instead of the ‘comfort zone’.

Often these simple leadership models are a great reflective tool, to take stock of not only where you are in the chart, but also where members of your team are.

If you want to find out more, get in touch with us and let us help you assess where on the performance vs pressure scale you are.