Master the ‘Earning Response’ By Marshall Goldsmith Building good habits...
Leaders would be less aggrieved by superficialities, less obsessed with conformity, and their direct reports would feel more welcome. It was a brilliant insight, aimed at enlightening a leader’s point of view about individuals on a team.
I saw the concept from the viewpoint of how it helped executives become better leaders. I failed to appreciate the power of referent groups from the other side, namely, the viewpoint of the referent group members.
I wasn’t adept at applying the concept beyond the workplace or, for that matter, in my own life. For decades, I’d been frustrated by otherwise intelligent people whose social values and knowledge base didn’t make sense to me. How could they believe things that, at least to me, x were so ignorant and illogical? My confusion persisted well into my 60s.
Then I recalled Roosevelt Thomas’s main point: If you know a person’s referent group—to whom or what they feel deeply connected, whom they want to impress, whose respect they crave—you can understand why they talk and think and behave the way they do. You don’t have to agree with them, but you are less likely to dismiss them as brainwashed or uninformed. At the same time, you realize that your views may appear equally incomprehensible to them.
It made me more tolerant, almost empathic. It also started me thinking about the utility of referent groups.
Was there a structure into which I could fold Roosevelt’s insight to help people change their behavior?
Roosevelt Thomas was a giant onto whose shoulders I should have climbed much sooner.