Failure Lesson Four: You’re the Old Dog who Won’t Learn New Tricks

We’ve all heard the expression, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”.  I’ll admit.  I’ve never tried…at least with an actual 4-legged pooch.  But I have experienced this:   A four-year-old is told to pick up her toys.  Instead of an obedient response, she begins to stomp her feet, jump up and down and yells at the top of her voice, “YOU CAN’T MAKE ME!”  She’s four.  And hopefully she will eventually learn those little tantrums don’t work.

Now fast forward to your office.  Would that old dog phrase ever be spoken about you?  Or, is there a chance you resemble that four year old when asked to do or try something you’ve never done before.

Welcome to our fourth lesson in leadership failures.  Like our previous posts on followers, credibility, and communication, leaders rarely set out to purposefully fail.  Yet, if they aren’t intentional with awareness and tenacious about their development, failure slowly becomes a result in their leadership influence.

Today’s topic is about our willingness to change. Yep, that’s right…that openness to new ideas and helpful feedback we receive to make us better.  How willing are we… really… when it comes to considering those ideas that don’t come so naturally to us.

Consider these three indicators that you may not be as open minded as you think:

#1  Open-mindedness is an empty promise.
We’ve all heard the phrase, “Thanks for the feedback, I’ll consider that.”  But in reality, those words are simply a response to make the interaction stop.  We really don’t have any intention of reflecting on the feedback and certainly won’t consider a different approach in the future.  How do others know this? The scenario will continue to repeat itself in the future.  But don’t’ worry.   Others will actually stop providing feedback to you in the future. After all, what’s the point?  Empty promises are one of the greatest signals to others you give lip service.

#2 You really do think your way is always the best.
Everyone has experience. And in fact, sometimes that experience really does give you the best practical insight to how to perform a task or address a problem.  That’s not the issue here. The real barrier comes when we rely only on our perspective and are not willing to consider others (especially those who have less experience than we do).  It’s arrogant and others will likely view you as stubborn and close-minded.  And once again, you become the person no one really wants to interact with.

#3 You haven’t learned anything new in the last 3 months.
Regardless of the routine of your work or the number of years you have held your role, we should strive to be a continual learner.  Our fast paced business environment provides a variety of learning opportunities. Are you taking advantage of them? What is on your reading list? Do you have a curiosity of other industries comparable to yours?  What about technology?  Do you embrace or fear systems you don’t understand? Who are you learning from?  And just as important, who are you teaching? We never really do “graduate” and in fact, we still have pop quizzes every week!  This willingness to learn has a direct impact to our perspective on change.

No one is perfect but failure really is an option.  Stay intentional and relentless about your own leadership development and you’ll be a success…by many definitions.

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