Leading Through Benevolent Brainwashing

Consistency is Key to Bringing out the Best in Those We Lead


When we’re in a position of leadership — in a company, an organization or even raising our children — there’s one philosophy that we must master if we expect to be successful: We must be consistent. No matter how much we know about the field we’re attempting to lead our people through, they’re never going to give us their full attention or effort if we are constantly inconsistent with what expect from them. When the goals keep changing, they’ll feel they will never be able to win, because what “winning” looks like keeps changing. After a point, they’ll give up or, in the case of team members, find another place where they believe winning is clearly defined and consistent.



Basically, if the goal is inconsistent, unclear and the rules keep changing, it’s impossible to play the game.


Consistency — setting the rules and stating clear goals and expectations that are the same no matter what day it is — is key to accomplishing the most with your team and, especially in the case of children, assisting them in becoming the best versions of themselves.


Tell me who your friends are, and I’ll tell you who you are.

Part of building this consistency at home or in the workplace is by monitoring the language we use, the phrases we repeat and the stories we tell. One of the tools we used when raising our family is what I came to describe as “benevolent brainwashing.” There are negative definitions of the term “brainwashing,” but those aren’t what this is about.


Webster’s New World Dictionary defines “brainwashing” as “The application of a concentrated means of persuasion … or repeated suggestion, in order to develop a specific belief or motivation.” With benevolent brainwashing, we were persuading and influencing our children through repetition to make good choices and to develop strong work and social ethics. This “brainwashing,” a core Theory of 5 philosophy when it comes to leadership, was a tool we used to provide them with an “internal” set of guidelines that they would rely on throughout their lives.


This process started early with our children. One of the statements they heard most often as they were growing up was “Tell me who your friends are, and I’ll tell you who you are.” They heard it so often that they would eventually finish the statement before we did. Sometimes they did it with an eye roll, but that seed was firmly planted and helped them make good decisions that serve them well as adults today.


By constantly repeating this statement and others like it, they never had to wonder where we stood on the important issues, or what we expected from them. On the rare occasions when they did break the rules, they understood there were consequences coming their way; it was never a surprise to them. We were consistent. They knew we were firm, but ultimately forgiving. They knew we loved them and, even when we had to hand out discipline, deep down they knew we only did it because we loved them and wanted the best for them because they had internalized another of our common statements: “We’re doing this because we care about you. We know it’s the best thing for your future and we want you to excel at life.”

Did they want to be punished? Of course not. Did they understand the reasons WHY we were doing it? Yes, they did. They had been “programmed” to understand the meaning — and caring — behind our actions.


This type of behavior is also effective in the workplace. When we lead teams, they need to know what we expect, why we expect it and that those expectations aren’t subject to our whims. Expectations will absolutely change over time, of course. Product launches, cycles in the market, new competitors, company growth and a host of other factors will establish new goals and rules as previous goals are met and the business evolves, but this won’t come as a surprise. As they get to know us, understand how we lead and what we expect, they can put their full energy toward accomplishing the goals and objectives instead of wondering “which” leader they’ll have to follow today.


And, just as life has consequences from time to time, a leader sometimes has the unpleasant duty of correcting a team member’s behavior or taking them to task over their lackluster attitude, behavior and performance. This should also not come “out of left field,” but be an expected consequence of their actions. We accomplish this by starting the process of “benevolent brainwashing” as soon as we accepted the position as the leader of the team or the moment they joined our team.


Consistency is most important in these circumstances that could quickly become negative instead of instructional. It’s here that “leaders” separate themselves from “bosses.” A “boss” who randomly blows up in public at one of their employees for some minor infraction — if it even is an infraction — will not get the best out of his or her team. When the “boss” lets the bad behavior of one team member go unchecked while holding everyone else accountable, their team is learning a lesson that the “boss” didn’t intend to teach. Inconsistent behavior is not an acceptable leadership style.


Leaders are human, and as humans, we will have a rough day or not feel well from time to time. Our team understands that. What we need to keep in mind, however, is that we must stay consistent in our leadership, no matter what is going on in our lives at any given moment. That’s the only way our team will be able to perform at the top of their game.


By staying steady with our rules, goals and expectations, “benevolent brainwashing” becomes a exceptional tool for creating dependability and outstanding results no matter if we’re dealing with our team members or our children. When are given the honor and opportunity to lead, those who live a Theory of 5 lifestyle know that is crucial that we become LEADERS worth following!

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CS

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