Okay, this one may have thrown you at first…cows don’t drink milk! (and no, we’re not taking about calves either!) But, if you ask a roomful of people over the age of 35, what color liquid paper is, they’ll say white. If you then ask them “what do cows drink?”, they’ll say “MILK”…every time. The question then becomes “How many times a day every day all day do we as leaders say things that make that little sense and derive from that little conscious thought? Leadership requires conscious thought and cannot be done by unconscious habit…not well at any rate. Auto-pilot is about managing old habits, not about learning to lead.
But why does it take so long to overcome, change or replace an old behavioral habit? There are a few plausible reasons, actually:
Your Brain is Different
Your brain is not as receptive to new info as it was when you were a kid. Each habit you have has formed a physical groove in your bran and changing that habit requires literally making a new groove. Groovy, huh?
Easier to do it The Same Old Way
It’s easier to do what you’ve always done. It doesn’t require any conscious thought or take a lot of your energy. Think of driving. Ever driven home after work, pulled in the driveway and had no idea how you got there? Driving is a habit. You no longer notice the things you see every day. Is that really how you want to lead?
There’s More to Remember Now
With the constant onset of information, discussions, directions, electronic, verbal and written messages, there is a lot for us to take in now. Focusing on one specific habit or behavior without any distractions, is much more challenging than it used to be, unless what you are focused on is really, really, important to you.
And maybe that last thought is where we actually begin. Is the change you are looking to make really important to you? If so, you’ll be much more likely to find the time, make the effort, or expend the energy. If you stick with it, your habits and behaviors will be positively contagious to those around you, whom you may also wish to make changes… and your cows will quit drinking milk!
Monica Wofford, MBA, CSP, is an international speaker, trainer, and author who helps managers who were promoted, actually become prepared to lead.