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A thermometer is a follower. It reflects the temperature of its environment. A thermometer is a device that reacts to whatever is going on. If the temperature is hot, it tells you so. If it’s cold, the thermometer reflects that reality as well. It’s a dumb instrument in the sense it doesn’t contain intelligent, multipurpose functionality. It has one purpose and one purpose only. The thermometer has no control because its purpose is to react to the given atmosphere that it is exposed to. Do you control how you react to each situation?
A thermostat is an influencer. A thermostat regulates the environment. It sets the desired temperature of the room and actively works to maintain it within a given range. If the temperature rises above the goal, the thermostat signals the air conditioner to crank up and cool the room down. If the temperature falls below the goal, the thermostat causes the heater to turn on in order to warm the room up. The thermostat is intelligent in the sense it’s always monitoring the environment, and if the temperature gets too hot or cold, it decides what to do to correct the situation.
Thermometer people react to their surroundings. When the tension gets high and people are on edge, these people are often seen losing their cool. They become irritable, harsh, demanding, critical, impatient, and maybe even lose their temper and yell or curse. They follow the crowd and are completely influenced by their environment. Thermometer people don’t inspire trust and commitment with people, they erode it.
Thermostat people, however, constantly have a pulse on the morale, productivity, stress level, and environmental conditions going on around them. When the temperature gets hot because everyone is under pressure of a heavy workload, resources are scarce, or pending deadlines are causing stress, they cool things off by acting as the calming influence within their team or company. They take time to listen to the concerns of fellow team members and provide the necessary direction and support that’s needed to help the team achieve its goals. Thermostat people also alleviate pressure on their team by mixing in some lighthearted fun at opportune times.
Likewise, when work is slow and people are prone to just go through the motions, thermostat people get their co-workers refocused on the vision, purpose, and goals of the team. Because they are actively monitoring the environment around them, they know when the people around them need to be challenged with new goals and priorities, or when they just need a friendly kick in the pants to stay focused on their current initiatives.
Thermostat people build trust and confidence, whereas thermometer people erode trust. They want to set the tone for how those around them should react during tough times and navigate the rough seas ahead.
Don't be a simple reflection of what others are and do at work. Be the pace-setter, the thermostat that determines climate and culture.