Leaders Influence Outcomes

I heard Tim Kight speak at the Iowa SHRM conference, and he had an elegant way of boiling down the role our choices make in determining outcomes.

Event + response = outcome

Essentially, if we don’t have influence over events, yet we want to control outcomes, then we need to focus on our responses to the events. It’s a change in mindset. Instead of our response being tied to “what’s fair,” our focus shifts to “what will result in a better outcome.”

This mindset changes from justice to influence.

Too often, our addiction to being right coupled with a sense of justice drives us to a response that centers around being “fair.” If, however, we shift our thought process to influence, we can consider a response that will bring about the best outcome.

In productive conflict training, we talk about the following psychological process:

Event —> Automatic Thought —> Response

The training involves mindfulness about what our natural automatic thoughts are and then pushes us to pause and consider the most productive response, rather than our habitual one.

So, if we combine these two ways of looking at our responses, we get this:

  1. An event occurs.
  2. It triggers an automatic thought.
  3. Before responding, consider the outcome that is most productive. Be on guard for our tendency to seek justice rather than influence.
  4. We respond.

For example, (Event) Darla took the good adding machine, the one Rita usually takes out on critical audits. Darla didn’t ask, and now Rita has to take the lousy one. (Automatic Thought) “Ugh, Darla is so selfish and inconsiderate. She didn’t even check with me first, and she knows I had this audit today,” Rita thinks to herself as she drives to the audit location.

Now, Rita has a choice. She can respond with something unproductive or something that may lead to a productive outcome.

(Unproductive response) She can continue with her natural inclination in order to get the fairness she thinks she deserves. In this scenario, Rita tells her boss that Darla took the machine again. Over lunch, she vents to others about how inconsiderate Darla is and wants to “warn” them about her selfish behavior. Just to get it out of her system, you know?

(Unproductive response—>Unproductive outcome) Rita now looks bad and people trust her less. Darla looks bad and people trust her less. The boss wonders why these adults can’t get along.

What if, instead, Rita catches herself before her unproductive response and makes the choice to do something productive?
(Productive response) Because she wants a productive outcome, Rita decides to talk with her boss. “Hey, I was wondering if we might be able to get another x-5000 Add-o-Matic? It seems like we have a need for at least two.” She also decides to speak with Darla one-on-one as soon as she completes her audit.

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