7 Ways to Stop Being Hardheaded
Failure is the result of inflexibility, but so is success.
Thomas Edison said, “The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” But, he didn’t try the same thing over and over.
The difference between a closed mind and a genius is positive results.
The dark side of persistence is inflexibility, stubbornness, resistance, hardheadedness, and a closed mind. When persistence is unwillingness to adapt, you’re doomed.
3 reasons leaders are hardheaded:
- History. It worked in the past.
- Attachment. They fall in love with their ideas.
- Ego. Adapting feels like failure.
- Cling to the timeless idea behind your mission. If the Pony Express saw itself as a communications company, it might still exist. What’s your timeless idea?
- Don’t compromise core values.
- Ignore critics who don’t have skin in the game.
- Face challenges aggressively. If it isn’t challenging, you’re wasting your talent.
7 ways to stop being hardheaded:
Hard-heads over-commit to past behaviors.
- Make adapting part of organizational culture.
- Keep asking, “What are we learning from mistakes?” Reward answers.
- Develop several options and choose one.
- Evaluate frequently. What’s working? What might be better?
- Test assumptions. It’s easy to evaluate results. What assumptions are behind strategies?
- Mitigate optimism with pessimism. Untested optimism is seduction. An optimist with a closed mind is a menace.
- Ask, “What are we learning?” Provide time to reflect.
- Learn from the failures of others.
- Invite an outsider in. If listening to yourself isn’t working, try listening to someone else.
- Stay on target, but stop doing what isn’t working. Persistent problems indicate too much persistence. Stopping is one of leadership’s greatest challenges.
- Bend before breaking.
- Explore options.
- Make small adjustments.
How has being hardheaded served you?
When is persistence being hardheaded?
Interesting you posted on this today. I’ve had the word “obstinate” in my vocabulary quite a bit lately too. Thanks for adding the bullets about being obstinate. Sometimes you simply must insist on the core value or the standard or the goal or your team will give up. Without simple, persistent resilience, vendors will give you less than they should or your product will be less than it can be. Often, to achieve anything worthwhile, we obstinately pursue the goal, and flex on the method. Thanks for the great post.
Thanks Mike. Great seeing you today. You wrote, “to achieve anything worthwhile, we obstinately pursue the goal, and flex on the method.” I think this is at the heart of effective flexibility.
Your focus on being obstinate reinforces the importance of successfully navigating tensions between flexibility and abstinence.
Dan another good one! Organizations like Leaders become rigid or hard headed as well. Cultures like the old Sears keep promoting like minded people who ignore Walmart and the changing world around them. Until both the Leaders and the Company fail!
Thanks Brad. You remind me of the ostrich. As time goes by, it’s easy to close our eyes to outside influences and inputs. That’s a dangerous kind of hardheadedness.
Great post! Reminds me of the lessons we need to take from the coconut palm. Bend with the wind. Ride out the storm.
Thanks for a wonderful illustration, Elijah.
DAN! You have no idea how timely this is for me. We are going through some growing pains with a new director and I am having a very hard time getting on board with his plans because we, collectively, have already attempted what he wants us to do. He is making us go back to the beginning when we are already halfway to our goal. We are not in any kind of schedule trouble or anything so it’s just kind of arbitrary change with zero buy-in. However, that being said, I have to believe that he doesn’t want to sabotage us. He genuinely thinks he is teaching and coaching us. So, in this case, I’m being the hardheaded one and it is weighing on me like an anvil. Thank you for today’s message because I keep thinking that the new director is being the hardheaded one but in fact, I’m guilty as well. As usual, great post!
Thanks Margie. I must say that it’s easier to point fingers at hard-heads than to put ourselves in the category with them. You have my best for the journey.
As always, a great insightful post. I have more than once found myself on the wrong side of both hardheadedness and flexibility. I appreciate the comment about inviting an outsider in: “If listening to yourself isn’t working…” That is a vital, yet easily forgotten thing to do (for me). Thanks for the help! I will continue to work on finding the right line with persistence/flexibility, to be a “rigidly flexible” leader.
This post is what I like so much about your (relatively compact) posts: If simply lightly read them, you can easily be confused or worse. But if you Consider them as I try to do, there is so much to understand, to reflect upon relative to oneself. Your first line: “Failure is the result of inflexibility, but so is success.” The key for me at least: You have to self-assess those failures and refine your efforts toward a goal that meaningful enough to be inflexible…
And of course there’s the two sides of persistence and the various notions of ‘hardheadedness’ – I think I just used a non-word!!! Interestingly, your example of lack of timeless idea (Pony Express) was followed by the Post Office – another lack of timeless idea. With great appreciation from United Parcel Service and Federal Express. My choice for best timeless idea: Amazon!!!
Thanks (again…) for a very stimulating post!!!
Great topic Dan. It brings me to question the difference between dedication, passion and commitment to being hard-headed. I would contend that they could often be described as such. The drastic difference depends highly on the point of perspective. I like the point you made in that leaders who are being hard-headed “Ignore critics who don’t have skin in the game”. I find that to be very true when you run across so many that just don’t care.