How to Break Destructive Patterns

Those who can’t or won’t see patterns are doomed to repeat the past. Ignore patterns and yesterday’s decisions become tomorrow’s destiny.

Pattern recognition

Patterns, not problems, will ruin your business.
Dr. Henry Cloud

Pattern recognition may be the least discussed and most neglected leadership skill. Yet, pattern recognition informs plans, enables innovation, and empowers decision making.

Everyone has experience, wise leaders learn from it.
Learning from experience is the ability
to see and acknowledge patterns.

Constant frustration means you’re in patterns you can’t or won’t see. Blindness to patterns happens when you:

  1. Define yourself by results. When I defined myself by results, I ignored the reason for disappointing results and tried faster and harder. Frustration!
  2. Need another’s approval to bolster your worth. Think of those who remain in abusive relationships.
  3. Misapply experiences from the past. Success in one context doesn’t guarantee success in another. Problems at JC Penny may illustrate this dangerous pattern.

The real problem is the pattern:

In, “Boundaries for Leaders,” Dr. Henry Cloud explains how successful leaders see repeated problems as the problem. “Problems aren’t the issue. Problems are the work.” The problem is repeated problems – patterns.

Breaking patterns:

In yesterday’s conference call, Dr. Cloud explained that breaking patterns often involves creating structure. The board may meet with you every month rather than quarterly, for example.

Secondly, pattern busting often requires bringing in the outside. Hire a coach, find a mentor, visit the competition, or interact with fresh leaders.

Thirdly, instigate vigorous debate. Gather frontline employees and have them explain the reasons your organization is stuck, for example.

Patterns, when addressed as if they were only a problem to be solved, remain. Dr. Henry Cloud

Bonus material:

My conversation with Dr. Cloud on the difference between problems and patterns (5:45). 

How can leaders get better at seeing and breaking negative patterns?