Travis Newcomb

Mar 9, 2022

How to Identify a Leadership Mistake You’re Making Right Now

If you’re leading a team or project of any size its 99% likely you’re making at least one mistake right now. Great leaders are aware of this and actively look for the signals that tell them they’re on the wrong path.

When you’ve made big mistakes in the past have you ever wondered: “How come I didn’t get this feedback a month ago?”

The answer to this question is related to the power differential we have over those that report to us. This power differential makes it more difficult for our team members to give us feedback we hear and internalize. When we resist this feedback, whether its directly from our reports or from other signals we can’t course correct.

Resistance is the meta signal that you’re missing something that needs your attention. In this context I define resistance as an unconscious suppression that filters out information that is unpleasant to hear.

The good news is there are clear behavioral symptoms of resistance that we can learn to identify. I group these into high and low intensity.

High Intensity (Short term and easier to detect):

  • Annoyance (general discomfort)

  • Defensiveness (reacting with unfounded or irrelevant justifications)

  • Confusion (bewilderment, unclear thinking)

  • Emotional flooding (Usually anger, fear, or anxiety)

Low Intensity (Long term and more subtle) :

  • Avoidance (avoiding people or conversations)

  • Unreasonable standards (high standards not based on guiding principles)

  • Unfounded stories (justifications based on assumptions)

  • Forgetfulness of opposing points (failure to recall counter arguments you believe are wrong)

Take a moment and review the interactions, articles you’ve read, and videos you’ve watched over the last few days. See see if you can identify instances where you encountered symptoms of resistance.

Curiosity is kryptonite for resistance. When you notice any of these symptoms I’d encourage you to explore the situations where these symptoms arose. In some cases you may already have the information you need, but in others you may need to reach out to gather more information from your team and/or peers.

Travis Newcomb

Thoughts on the personal & leadership challenges faced in rapidly changing organizations.

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