Stop Being a Sheep in Business: How to Avoid Knee Jerk Reactions

How to Avoid Knee Jerk Reactions

When you follow the crowd you get a certain sense of safety. There’s a mentality that if we all stick together, like sheep, and move in the same direction, we are less likely to get picked off by predators – if one or two fall down, it’s probably not going to be me!

Be warned: There is a high price for herd mentality.

Reason, independent thought and an ability to be different fail when people are aligned in a pack. The reason for this is that our mentality switches to responding to situations on impulse, not clear thinking.

We are forever on the lookout to see if someone around us bolts, if so, that’s our cue to panic and follow their response. Not good.

MRI scans testing herd mentality during the pandemic found that, “Brain and behaviour studies clearly show that when information is scarce and threats seem imminent, people often stop listening to their own logic and look to see what others are doing”.

This creates a knee-jerk reaction where you don’t think, do any research, or come to your own conclusions, you just act on what is happening in front of you. For businesses, the consequences of bolting off down the wrong road can hit hard financially, mentally, and even take a physical toll if we are stressed or burnt out trying to keep up with constraint threats or reverse yet another mistake.

In business, acting on knee-jerk reactions will kill progress and you’ll start to see a disconnection between what (and who) your business was built for, and the direction you are going.

In business, it’s not over unless you quit.

Resilience is the greatest weapon you have to combat the knee-jerk reaction that can come during the stampede of negativity.

Now I say resilience for a reason. Things are going to go wrong in your business. There are going to be mistakes and backwards progression from time to time and that’s absolutely part of your learning and growth.

Rather than planning to do everything right and tread carefully, build up your resilience so that when you discover how to not do things you learn from it, pick yourself up and grow stronger.

As well as overcoming your own doubts and insecurities that negative circumstances can bring, you also need to be ready to be resilient in the face of other people’s negativity. Given the chance, people will jump at the opportunity to tell you why you’ll fail, how you’ll fail and when you’ll fail.

It feels personal, it might even feel right. It’s not. As a business coach I can tell you that in reality, they are just saying that because they lacked resilience and gave in to failure. They are talking about themselves, not you. Buck up and press on.

So many people who have succeeded were told they wouldn’t, and plenty of solid businesses have quit simply because others have told them it was already over.

  • After a gig in Nashville, Elvis Presley was told by a concert hall manager to return home and keep driving trucks (maybe the first ever “don’t give up your day job” jab)
  • Oprah Winfrey got publicly fired from her first television reporting job for getting, “too emotionally invested in her stories”
  • Steve Jobs got the boot from his own company, but bounced back and took the reins again
  • Abraham Lincoln entered his military service as a Captain but came back a Private. He then failed many times at business and lost several campaigns in politics before becoming president
  • Thomas Edison’s teachers told him he was “too stupid to learn anything”
  • Walt Disney was told Mickey Mouse would never succeed because women were afraid of mice

Despite the barrage of people telling them they couldn’t, these success stories prove that resilience will get you through. The other pattern in these success stories is that these were not sheep. Your uniqueness is what will ultimately be your brand and give you an edge above and beyond what everyone is doing. Yes, that’s going to ruffle a few feathers to start with – but remember, it’s not about you, the people telling you that you don’t fit is because someone at some point told them they need to be sheep. Ignore it. There are enough sheep.

If you’re prepared to keep moving forward nothing will stop you.

Tools to avoid knee-jerk reactions in business

Group pressures are difficult to break, especially if your unique offer is going against the grain.  To be a true leader and make decisions that benefit your business (even when it goes against what others think is best), you need to be equipped with the positive thinking tools that override knee-jerk emotional reactions.

#1 The Right Mindset

Just staying positive is not enough. You need to be able to put actions in place you will be able to see through to maintain progress and motivation. Positive action steps are proof that you can make headway in the chaos, which will work out much better than being stationary and telling yourself everything will be okay. You need to know your worth and take action to achieve your goals. When you do these things, you are more likely to be successful.

The best mindset you can adopt is to keep learning and growing, especially when making mistakes.

Iron out bad habits that are preventing you from being productive or energised (like surfing the internet instead of reviewing your finances). There will be plenty of ways you and others can prove that you have failed, your job is to have a list of those times your thrived and succeeded. When you can rewire your mind to follow the pathways and strategies that led to previous success you open up ever-increasing opportunities to find a new and unique way through.

#2 The Ability to Stay Informed

To stay informed you need to do whatever it takes. Do your own research, go to the source, get help from professionals, Carry out some tests and look at times these challenges have been overcome before. Being informed means you know the full story behind the current circumstances (above gossip, hype and rumours). This allows you to make decisions on what direction you will take to combat the challenges and stay on track to your goal.

#3 The Power to be an Authentic Leader

Being an authentic leader means you have a vision and mission for what you want to achieve and systems in place that make these goals possible. Without a vision and a mission to execute it, you’ll waver in direction and easily cave to external pressures and inevitably end up following others. What you’ll end up with is methods and systems that are best for them and their outcomes, not your business.

#4 Reliable Contingency Plans

Every business strategy should include a regular SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats). It’s important to analyse your strengths and predict weaknesses to fully understand how your business goals may be influenced by external circumstances. It gives you some calm and well-planned directions to take if things go pear-shaped and put in contingency plans for when SWOT items pan out.

The reality is doing something outside the norm is threatening to anyone who’s in sheep mode. They will tell you you are going the wrong way and insist you join them only because they have doubts about their own direction and strategy.

The world doesn’t remember the sheep. It remembers those that have pushed through adversity, those that have had a vision for a better way and those that have stayed true to their purpose.

If you do make a decision (or two) based on knee-jerk reactions, stop, take a breath and assess the outcomes. This will help you take stock of the situation and plan a course for correction instead of spiralling into another emotional reaction based on panic, fear, embarrassment or guilt.

Looking for a group of business owners who will help you avoid knee-jerk reactions? Join our free group The Business Evolution on Facebook today.