THE THINKING PATH
The CEO of a bottling company toured a plant whose employees were demoralized. The tour proved extremely successful, and the CEO’s approval of what he saw generated a visible lift of mood. Once the CEO had departed, the plant manager addressed the employees: “The boss really liked what he saw. He said it was the best he had ever seen. But why did you have the order of the products reversed in the coolers? It was embarrassing!” The employees’ mood instantly slumped.
Afterward, a colleague asked the plant manager why he dwelled on the negative. He replied: “They won’t be motivated toward perfection if you don’t keep finding something they did that they can improve. You always have to find something wrong. Good feelings don’t drive productivity and performance.”
Sound familiar? Unfortunately, it is very common and examples like this litter the organizational landscape.
This chapter presents a framework called the Thinking Path that is useful in leadership coaching and that can be used to help leaders understand and manage situations like the one described above.
The Thinking Path stipulates that people’s conscious and unconscious thought processes (their thinking) generate emotional/physical states (their feelings), which in turn drive behaviors (their actions) that produce outcomes (their results). Figure 1 illustrates the Thinking Path framework.
Three questions inspired the creation of the Thinking Path:
How do human beings change?
What causes sustained change in human beings?
Why do some individuals succeed in changing their behaviors and results, and why do others fail?
The answers to these questions came to me after years of study, research, personal work, and client engagements all over the world. And the answers pointed to a deeper phenomenon called thinking and the impact of thinking on our moment to moment experience of life.
The Thinking Path provides a simple, yet powerful framework to help clients understand and work with their thinking in a way that can yield three outcomes:
Clients realize that their thinking is linked to their feelings and that by changing their thinking, their feelings also change.
Clients realize that their thinking and feelings drive their actions and results and that by changing their thinking and feelings, their actions shift and their results change.
Clients take greater responsibility for generating sustained improvements in their actions and results by intentionally shifting their thinking and their feelings.
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