Override your “default future” with three performance laws
If you’ve ever been in a situation where you have an stretch goal on the horizon and a doubtful or disillusioned team, I found The Three Laws of Performance particularly suited for nonprofit leaders seeking an “about face” for everyone involved. Though I’ve used the term nonprofit leader in this case, the authors emphasize that anyone in the organization can use these Laws to create greater performance among the ranks. In fact, I asked this question in my interview with Steve Zaffron and Dave Logan:
CausePlanet: Several of your examples seemed to share a turning point characterized by the CEO or leadership team engaging the employees in a startling and participatory conversation that marked the beginning of new attitudes and performance. It seems as if the “about face” from the CEO is what helped employees redefine how the situation occurred to them. Have you ever seen the Three Laws successfully initiated by someone other than the CEO or leadership team?
Zaffron and Logan: Yes, leadership doesn’t require formal authority, and so anyone can step up as a leader. Some of the most powerful engagements we studied started with middle level managers bringing possible new futures to the top levels of an organization and enrolling them in trying it out.
Authors Steve Zaffron and Dave Logan would argue that The Three Laws is not a book about change; rather, it’s a book about rewriting the future. The power of rewriting the future is that it rewires how your team will, at its very core, feel about the potential of realizing a particular existence or destination. The authors point out that fixing problems often do not deliver expected results because the underlying dynamics have not been addressed.
First, everyone has what the authors refer to as a “default future.” This is a future that lives at the gut level and we know it’s what will happen whether we give words to it or not. Every person and organization has one.
Second, people’s relationship with a default future is complex, say the authors. Your default future lives at the experiential level underneath what you think and hope will happen. Yet, you live as if the future is preordained, unaware that by doing so you are making it come about. The same holds true at the organizational level—that’s why change is so hard when we put a new system in place, hoping that the process will override human nature.
Zaffron and Logan claim that when the Three Laws in this book are applied, performance transforms to a level far beyond what most people think is possible. It doesn’t happen bit by bit, but all at once, as individuals and organizations rewrite their future.
Statistical evidence shows that most change efforts fail. The reason for this is that regardless of the management interventions attempted, the default futures of employees and leaders are still in place. The more things change, the more they stay the same. “Whatever you resist, persists,” say the authors.
However, when everyone in your organization gets involved in rewriting the future, you rewire everyone’s perceptions of how their performance rolls into the overall fulfillment of that new future. Once you realize how the Laws are changing people’s ingrained views about their roles in the organization, you begin to embrace the potential of how much you can change or improve your future.
Readers can download a free guide to elevating performance from the authors’ website, www.threelaws.com. There are also discussion groups that have emerged on Facebook and LinkedIn.
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