Myths. Beliefs. Conventional wisdom. Even our own eyes get in our way. Consider what happened to Galileo. In 1589, he gathered the world's most learned professors to the Leaning Tower of Pisa for a demonstration to disprove a 2,000 year old physics principle of Aristotle's: the heavier an object is, the faster it will fall to earth.
From the top of the tower, Galileo simultaneously dropped a ten pound and a one pound weight, which landed at the same time. But conventional wisdom was so powerful, change so threatening, and herd mentality so prevalent, all the scholars denied the truth they'd just seen demonstrated.
Today, over four hundred years later, people who manage and lead in workplaces across the country are doing the 21st-century equivalent of not believing what's happening in front of their eyes. And they're not alone.
At every level, perpetuated mistruths linger. From hourly staff to individual contributions and senior leaders, too many people still operate as if the workplace hasn't changed, managing philosophies from last century still apply, and research on performance, motivation, and trust hasn't evolved in 50 years.
Consider a few myths from last century that continue to thrive: Change must start from the top; money is an essential motivator; the best leaders are well-rounded; manage, measure, and control employees to get results; title brings with it trust and followership; and best practices are transferable regardless of company climate or culture.
There are even new myths taking shape in this 21st-century: The answer to overwhelmed and busy is new technology and work-life balance programs; generational differences are large and important; disengagement is the problem to solve; it's hard to lead or work remotely; transparency builds trust; and new ways are inherently better ways.
But people who are winning at working are like Galileo. They work to dispel outdated or wrong information that misses the mark in today's organization by looking for proof, not falling for conjecture, or automatically following what's popular. They see both the trees and the forest without extrapolating about every tree or forest, or turning either into stereotyped generalizations.
People who are winning at working are inquisitive and curious. They seek data points and factual information to challenge assumptions before making important decisions affecting others. These independent thinkers and life-long learners get results by doing what works, trying new things, and discarding the things that don't work.
That's because they question their own beliefs, challenge out-dated myths, investigate the why behind the what, know what's fact or opinion, and operate with today's truths. And because they do, they understand why today trust is the new workplace currency; disengagement is a symptom, not the problem; we're much more alike than we are different; and the right behavior, not the right title, get results.
Perpetuated myths become herd-followers' "truths" that negatively impact relationships, engagement, trust, and results. Want to be winning at working? Embrace the truths, not the myths.
(c) 2015 Nan S. Russell. All rights reserved.
Nan Russell is an award winning author of four books. Her latest is Trust, Inc.: How to Create a Business Culture that Will Ignite Passion, Engagement, and Innovation (2014). More about her and her work at www.nanrussell.com.