Research suggests that we learn from our negative experiences and not our positive experiences. One reason is that it is natural to ponder our failures and not so natural to ponder things that are going well.
An executive told me of a toxic boss he once had named Tom. My friend shared examples of Tom requiring his people to do extreme things just to show he was in control. How could anyone be so ego driven?
My friend said, “I learned a lot. Today when I have a challenging situation, I ask, ‘What would Tom do?’ I conceptualize it and then I do the opposite.”
We both laughed but he was serious. This caused me to recall a similar process in which I occasionally engage. I have a psychological board of directors. You may want to experiment with creating one. Identify the people who left the most negative legacy in your life, people like Tom. Then identify the people who left the most positive legacy in your life. Then take a current challenge in your life and ask: “What would each person do?” Lay out the answers and then combine them into a strategy. In this way, you will be learning not only from the negative but also from the positive. If you consciously do this a number of times, you will find that you are diversifying your thought processes. You will also be accelerating your leadership development.
Now imagine taking this process to a team. You identify a challenge. You ask each person to do the above exercise and come up with a new strategy. You have each person share a strategy, open a discussion, and together construct a common strategy. You will not only have a better strategy than any one person could create, you will also provide a model of leadership development.
- When you formulate strategies, what is your thought process?
- Are you learning from your positive as well as your negative history?
- Who are the people you want on your psychological board of directors?
- How could we use this passage to create a more positive organization?