The World is as You Frame it

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Leadership Distinction #41: Mental Model

You experience your context, you interpret meaning from it, you form beliefs, you resolve your intentions, and you take action. You do all of this under the governing auspices of your Mental Models. As I do. And everyone else. So, it’s only fair we get to know the governor in charge.

All Mental Models are simplifications of reality. All are incomplete. Therefore, all are wrong. All are put to some use. Therefore, they are all useful, to different degrees. Some are warped representations of reality. Some operate below our conscious level. And some are even uniformly shared by a large number of people. Therefore, some stand smack dab in the pathway of generating intended change.

You might think the warped versions to be the most dangerous, but I don’t believe they are. The most worrisome are the ones that operate unrecognized, below our awareness. We can’t change what we cannot see. 

But what we do see are the effects of these unacknowledged mental models. We see them in the organization that cannot implement new strategy, or the business that cannot shift course or the company that simply cannot change when it is obvious that it must if it is to continue.

What to do? Open the kimono. And it starts with you, the leader, who must set the example for all. You must endure some vulnerability and expose your point of view for others on the team to assess. You’ve got to give them the license to challenge it. And if the uncovered view appears to be thwarting progress it must be displaced with a different representation of what the organization is facing. With one of these hard examinations successfully behind you and the team, you can then work on bringing to light the hidden, shared models of the organization. What’s in your governor?

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