Resolutions and Filters

Jan 02, 2020

Author: Howard Betts (5 minute read )

‘Good resolutions are simply cheques that people draw on a bank where they have no account.’

It’s that time of year again when stuffed with food and drink that we didn’t need but thoroughly enjoyed that we return to work refreshed and full of optimism for the year ahead. We may possibly also have a New Year’s resolution or two.

As a leader we may like this time of year to think about our leadership and what we could change or improve.

In doing this we need to recognise that as a human we act, feel, and perform in accordance with what we perceive to be true not just about the world around us but also, our self.

The mind is a powerful thing but unfortunately, it is far from honest.
Many leaders will go no further and give up reading here; they believe that they are in the position they are because they are good at what they do.

These leaders need to appreciate that everything that we see, hear, and think is ‘filtered’ in our mind by our beliefs, for it is these beliefs that convey to us a sense of ‘what is’.

Our beliefs help us to interpret and make sense of ‘our world’ yet we selectively perceive only a part of the total world around us.

We make assumptions that are consistent with our beliefs and ignore or ‘discount’ those that are not. As a consequence many of our beliefs may not be factual even though to us they may be ‘the truth’ and will vary in how absolute they are. This is, for instance, why many leaders believe that they are the ‘finished product’ and not a work in progress.
Recognising that our beliefs are our best but often flawed thinking about something, someone, or our self that limits us in how we behave, act, live our life, and crucially in this context, how we lead.

If we are going to be more effective and productive as a leader – and why wouldn’t we want to – we need to appreciate that leaders are reliant upon followers if they are to be successful. The leader-follower dynamic is complex for it is a mix of expectations and perceptions where the beliefs by both parties are ‘filtered’ as to how we see ourselves and others see us.

The three main filters comprise of:

Deletions – occur where we ‘delete’ some of the information available to us by ignoring or leaving out a portion of the data. Given the sheer amount of information – ‘stimuli’ – that confronts us each and every second of the day we can only consciously process a small proportion if we are to remain well-balanced. It is therefore important to ensure that we don’t ‘delete’ the useful bits.

Distortions – here we chose, primarily unconsciously, to alter, misrepresent, mistake, or twist information in order for it to fit with the mental image – the model of the world – we currently hold. It is important to recognise that not all distortions are necessarily un-helpful some can be useful.

Generalisations – these are broad statements that are not entirely true (they may contain a deletion or a distortion or both) because they oversimplify situations, stereotype, or make general conclusions without recognising the exceptions to ‘our rules’. Similar to distortions, generalisations can be a mix of both helpful and un-helpful with much learning in our life actually taking place through the use of generalisations.

As a leader, if we can fill in the deletions, understand the distortions, and recognise the generalisations we and others are making through our interactions and relationships we will have the foundations of the information through which we can form meaningful resolutions – Wilde’s ‘cheques’ – through which we can change and develop our leadership.

The ‘bank with no account’ that Wilde remarks upon is the lack of self-discipline many leaders do not have to turn a resolution into an action, a change, or an improvement.

Awareness is helpful but we still need to ‘Be Aware’, for research suggests that New Year resolutions begun on the 1st January are most likely to be given up by the 12th January[1] and importantly, a habit change – most often a resolution – can take 66 days of commitment to fully take effect[2].




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