The Idea: “We gather information (selectively), interpret it (prejudicially), and recall it (unreliably).”  

In his book, Triggers, executive coach Marshall Goldsmith had 86,000 leaders worldwide grade their performance. The results are shocking.

  • 70% of leaders believe they are in the top 10% of their peer group.  
  • 82% of leaders believe they are in the top 20% of their peer group.
  • 98.5% of leaders believe they are in the top 50% of their peer group.

His research clearly demonstrates that most people have an inaccurate perception of their personal performance.  In a world where most leaders claim to embrace self-examination, how can this many people be so deceived?  

As Goldsmith says, “Our inner beliefs trigger failure before it happens. They sabotage lasting change by canceling its possibility.”  Mental models (or triggers) either incapacitate us or set us free to create.  They are installed in us and possess great power, whether we acknowledge them or not.

What triggers are getting the best of you?

High performers are oftentimes the most influential people in the room, suffering from a false sense of power, thinking they can control the behaviors of others.  They can’t.  Research shows they can only control how they behave, not the outcomes. And when we are tired and let our guard down, we are even more responsive to triggers.

Fatigue and energy depletion creates weaknesses in judgment and unlocks our leadership vulnerabilities.   At the end of a long week of work, we are susceptible to bad decisions and our own unconscious triggers.

If Goldsmith is right, our biggest struggle is implementing change, not just recognizing the need for it.  Our triggers often catapult us back into limiting behavioral patterns.  Frequently, they are not based in fact but they are real, nonetheless, possessing extraordinary influence on our subconscious. And they can take many forms.

“Your glimpse of the finish line is a mirage.  You don’t get to determine if you have gotten better.  The people around you make that call.”  Our self-analysis is consistently distorted.

Regardless of how our habits trigger our regression, Goldsmith shares one principle that is always effective in preventing it: “Any effort to contain our normal impulses in the face of other people’s obstinacy can be high depletion. Creating Structure is how we overcome depletion.  When we have structure, we don’t have to make as many choices; we just follow the plan.”  

Structure gives us freedom, and we become less reliant on emotionally draining self-discipline. Structure drives results. Think about asking these structured questions each week:

    1. What’s hindering or stunting our team’s growth?
    2. What known or unknown threats could hurt us?
    3. What truly creates value for my team and the customer?

We all tend to favor information that confirms our opinions, true or not.  Goldsmith reminds us “We gather information (selectively), interpret it (prejudicially), and recall it (unreliably).”  Don’t trust your perception; build some structure.  

What trigger is getting the best of you?