“Are You a Thermometer or Thermostat”
In life, change is either created by you or happens to you. Yet, your response to change is ALWAYS your choice. So the majority of the time, do you affect change or does change affect you?
Are you typically a thermostat or a thermometer?
What’s the Difference?
Thermostats set the temperature of the environment while thermometers react to the environment.
As a leader, which best describes your style most of the time? Are you mostly in control of the culture and environment – being the thermostat? Are you allowing your boss, your circumstances or even your followers to set the temperature on your thermometer?
There are some leaders who don’t want to ‘rock the boat’. They spend most of their time polling their team members and their management. They are interested in pleasing others. If you were sitting next to them in church, you might over hear them talk to the person on their left who says, “Boy, it’s cold in here today,” “It sure is”, would be their response. The person on their right might then turn and whisper to them, “My, my, it’s warm in here today.” They would respond by saying, “It sure is.”
These types of leaders respond as thermometers. Someone, something, or some expectation is setting the temperature for them. Some are cold and distant because of circumstances and they choose to be closed and fearful. Others are hot and blistering because they believe that their circumstances warrant their anger and ire.
Living as a thermometer can leave you feeling frustrated, distant, or overwhelmed because your mind tells you that you “must”, you “have to”, you “need to” respond to the changing temperature in your life. What are the things that you believe that you “have to” do? (Go to work? Pick up the kids? Go to church? Do the laundry?) If your habit is to feel obligated and your mind gives you thoughts that you “have to”, “should”, or “must”, you are a thermometer to your own thinking habits. These are just thought habits, however, that have been created in your mind which you are choosing to respond to and believe.
Newsflash: Thoughts can LIE! When you are a thermometer, your mind tells you that there is some uncontrollable external event or some unchangeable internal trait that determines your fate. And you are simply stuck forever under the rock of these circumstances. (Choose to get out from under the rock! We’ll give you some tips later in this newsletter.)
So, should you try not to be a thermometer? Absolutely not!! As a matter of fact, your brain is already hard-wired to be a thermometer.
In your brain are mirror neurons. A mirror neuron is a neuron which fires both when you act and when you observe the same action performed by another person. Thus, the neuron “mirrors” the behavior of another person as though you were yourself acting. These mirror neurons may be important for understanding the actions of other people, and for learning new skills by imitation. Scientists have independently argued that the mirror neuron system is involved in empathy. A large number of experiments have shown that certain brain regions are active when a person experiences an emotion (disgust, happiness, pain, etc.) and when he or she sees another person experiencing an emotion.
These mirror neurons are built in thermometers! They are your tools. They help you understand how another person is feeling by mentally rehearsing in a fraction of a second their facial expressions or body language. (These neurons fire much faster than cognitive or thinking neurons.) They help you to produce your “gut feelings.” When you overvalue the thoughts and feelings produced by these mirror neurons, you allow your internal thermometer to be your thermostat. You give up your conscious control unconsciously.
I meet many people through coaching that believe or pretend that they are thermostats. They believe as a leader that they are responsible for constantly setting the temperature for their work environment. They believe that they must proclaim and sell the path forward to their team. As the leader, the best temperature for the team is, of course, the one that they, the leader, are setting. (It doesn’t matter if the rest of the team agrees or not.) These leaders are ignoring their built in thermometers. Their leadership will be ineffective in the long run because they are ignoring thoughts that would support their success and listening to thoughts that are at times, sabotaging or delaying their success.
Newsflash: Thoughts can LIE! When you are a thermostat, your mind tells you that you and only you control your fate… that you are right… that your ideas are the best ideas and everyone should follow your lead. Your mind is telling you that you can’t trust others because they don’t have all the information that your brain has. Do you ever feel or hear any of these thoughts?
Being the Leader
Whether it is your mirror neurons or your need to be right, you are still at choice when it comes to responding to your thoughts. As a thermometer, you can react according to the measured temperature. If it’s hot, you are immediately frustrated, overwhelmed, or angered. If it’s cold, you immediately divert or withdraw. OR, you can choose to read the temperature on your thermometer and BE the thermostat.
As a leader, you should choose to understand the current temperature, assess the optimal temperature, and set the course. However, you must first accurately measure the temperature in your current climate. Then, you must choose to respond by cooling, heating or keeping the temperature the same. Regardless of the correction, as a leader, you must be BOTH the thermometer and the thermostat. You must not assume or believe that you ARE the environment. You must be separate from it in order to affect a change.
The order of using your thermometer and thermostat is very important… if you rush in and start adjusting the temperature without assessing the situation, you may find that your adjustment took you in the wrong direction. So, before you act like a thermostat be sure that you have an accurate reading on your thermometer.
As a thermometer, you must be able to see the world through other people’s eyes. You must be able to put yourself in their shoes and figure out if they are too hot or too cold to perform or progress optimally. Henry Ford once said, “If there is one secret of success it lies in the ability to get to the other person’s point of view and see things from the other person’s angle as well as from your own.”
As a thermostat, you must be sure to set the temperature to “comfortably warm.” That means not too hot where others will be wanting to disrobe to be comfortable… where thoughts and ideas are flying around with reckless abandon. But it also means not too cold where people are bundled up in parkas afraid to come out because of fear of being frostbitten.
The “Right” Temperature
So what is the right temperature?
|I’m going to have to defer to a man who have achieved far more than I. Charles M. Schwab who in 1921 at the age of 39 was the first man to ever be paid an annual salary of one million dollars ($1,000,000). Andrew Carnegie paid him that amount for being the first president of the newly formed US Steel Company, the largest company in the world at the time. What did Mr. Schwab say was the reason he was paid $3,000 per day?
“I consider my ability to arouse enthusiasm among people the greatest asset I possess, and the way to develop the best that is in a person is appreciation and encouragement. There is nothing else that so kills the ambition of a person as criticisms from superiors. I never criticize anyone. I believe in giving a person incentive to work. So I am anxious to praise but loath to find fault. If I like anything, I am hearty in my approbation and lavish in my praise.” – Charles Schwab
Wow! And to think he was paid a million dollars a year for THAT! Do you think he set the right temperature for the people that he was leading?
Charles Schwab went on to say, “I have yet to find the person, however great or exalted his station, who did not do better work and put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than he would ever do under a spirit of criticism.”
Just like the porridge of the three bears, Goldilocks was drawn not to the one that was too hot or the one that was too cold, but to the one that was just right!
When you lead, at what temperature do you set your thermostat? Think about it for a moment. When you are leading, is it uncomfortably hot where everyone is avoiding you out of fear of getting burned? Is it freezing cold or maybe just chilly where no one really cares about anyone or anything?
Your thermostat must be set at a comfortable temperature where your team members are free to perform knowing that win or lose, success or failure, they will find the temperature to be comfortable and always be treated with respect and appreciation for their efforts. Sound Pollyanna? You might want to read Charles Schwab’s quotes again.
“There is nothing else that so kills the ambition of a person as criticisms from superiors.”
“I have yet to find the person… who did not do better work and put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than he would ever do under a spirit of criticism.”
Your Next Steps
It’s all about balance. You must know when to measure and when to adjust. How can you keep your thermostat and thermometer in balance?
Here are 4 steps that will keep you cool under the heat of stress yet warm towards the people you lead.
- Self-Awareness – Become aware of your mirror neurons. Understand that they HELP you measure the temperature. They do not set the temperature, just as thermometers do not. You can not control the temperature with your thermometer.
- Self-Acceptance – Understand that you cannot control circumstances and that you are NOT what you do. Understand that you are not your sales numbers, you are not your project’s success or failure, you are not your children’s successes or shortcomings, you are not the satisfaction level of your clients. You may, however, use your thermometer to measure these things but you are not your environment. Accept that.
- Self-Control – Learn to control your own reactions and responses to your thoughts and your circumstances. Learn to be a thermostat that sets the correct temperature for the situation. Know that you are constantly at choice (even if your mind tells you that you “have to”, “should” or “must” do things.) As a matter of fact, the only thing is this whole world that you can truly control is your response to your own perceptions and thoughts including your response to your internal thermometer. (Our coaching program can help!)
- Self-Confidence – This comes from practicing the 3 steps above and getting better at them every day. Measure the temperature, assess what is best and when possible, set the temperature making sure that it is comfortably warm.
“There is nothing else that so kills the ambition of a person as criticisms from superiors.” – Charles Schwab
“If I have no other qualities I can succeed with love alone. Without it I will fail though I possess all the knowledge and skills of the world.” – Og Mandino