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The Reason You Keep Getting In Your Own Way and How to Avoid It

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There is an old saying about the definition of insanity. That it’s doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. We’ve all experienced this phenomenon in business, and in life. So why does it keep happening, and how can we prevent it? First, we have to understand how we get our results.

Where do results come from? Simply put, results are outcomes of our actions and behaviors. And very often when we don’t get the result we want, we look to those actions or behaviors to diagnose where we went wrong. Then we switch out old actions for new ones and try again. (No response to your email? Perhaps a stronger headline or that red exclamation point will do the trick!) But this is a shortsighted and usually futile exercise, because results start father back in the equation… in a far less tangible place.

It is our thinking that drives our actions and behaviors. And our thinking is created by a complex combination of our values, beliefs, experiences and habits of thought created slowly over time. Larry Senn, founder of Senn Delaney Leadership Consulting, sums it up well as ‘insights’ in his model, The Results Cone. Larry’s model says that insights inform our thinking, our thinking drives our behaviors and our behaviors create our results. So when the results go wrong we often must trace back, past the actions/behaviors, to the thinking that created them to diagnose where we went wrong. And hopefully, when we do, we can have new insights that change our thinking, and therefore our result.

What we have found in our work at Storyforge, is that one particular insight has a disproportionate impact on quality and consistency of results for the businesses we support: that is a shift in thinking that is tied to purpose.

Consider famously successful NYC restauranteur Danny Meyer. He defines his purpose, and the purpose of all of his businesses in a surprising way: “You may think, as I once did, that I’m primarily in the business of serving good food. Actually, though, food is secondary to something that matters even more. In the end, what’s most meaningful is creating positive, uplifting outcomes for human experiences and human relationships.” Imagine how his employees might act, and the decisions they might be empowered to make in the moment through this purpose? Would his recruiters hire for technical skills or attitude? How would his managers approach performance management? How might his executive chef deal differently with his suppliers and vendors?

Purpose becomes the filter for your thinking. When employees understand their purpose, and have insights about the role they play in fulfilling that purpose, their thinking – and how they translate that thinking into actions – can create extraordinary different results.

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