Sunday, August 26

Leadership and Self-Deception

This week, I would like to plug a book that has been revolutionary for me. I have read many, many leadership books. This one was a bit deceiving, because of the title. But it is not just a great leadership book, but a great communication and relationship building resource that everyone should have on their shelves. When I say that this book has changed my life, I am not just trying to gas anyone up. This book is da bomb!

Written by the Arbinger Institute, a worldwide institute that helps organizations, families, individuals, and communities solve the problems created by self-deception. Arbinger is the ancient French spelling of the word “harbinger” as in “foreshadowing what is to come.” The institute has chosen the name Arbinger to symbolize its role as a forerunner, a “harbinger” of change. Their goal is to break new ground in solving the age-old problem of self-deception, or what was originally called resistance.

The institute asks: “How can people simultaneously
1) create their own problems,
2) be unable to see that they are creating their own problems, and yet
3) resist any attempts to help them stop creating those problems?”

According to the Arbinger Institute, this phenomenon is at the heart of much organizational failure.

Leadership and Self-Deception, written as a fable, portrays the efforts of the leadership team of the fictitious Zagrum company to teach a new team member about their unique management style. The team members use examples of their own family conflicts to demonstrate how the new member has been “in the box” with his co-workers.

Here’s an example of self-betrayal from the Arbinger Institute:

You’re the husband in this story. Jill is your wife. You’re sound asleep after a hard day. At 4 am, your young daughter’s cries wake you.

Your thoughts…
“I’d better get up and take care of her … but I’m tired, I’m so comfortable … Jill can do it … but she’s not getting up … doesn’t she hear the kid? …. I work hard all day, I did the kid last night … what’s wrong with her …? I’m a good husband … she’s still not up! She’s being lazy … she’s a lousy mom.”

Bang. You’ve gone from sound asleep to condemning your wife in a few seconds flat.

Self-deception is likened to being in the box because it seems that you’re shut in a box with no other external stimulus coming in except your own closed perspective. This inability to see that the problem lies within you carries its weight on the relationship you have with your peers and ultimately translates itself on the performance of your group.

It is the case of everyone in your organization thinking you’re the problem except that you’re not even aware or are even in denial of such a possibility. Here, you will find that self-deception or being in the box is the main reason, albeit unknowingly, why leaders fail.

Are you IN or OUT of the box?

The most basic test in determining whether you’re in or out of the box is when you try to be interested in knowing the people under you, or at least even match their names with faces for starters. Your lack of interest in something as basic as this keeps you IN the box. You don’t regard them as people - only as objects within your organization. You decide that your needs come before anybody else’s and that basically these needs should be satisfied first and pity for those who come in second.

Being OUT of the box means you’re placing your needs as well as the need of others on the same level. You are all equal. If it’s as simple as people treating others as people (including all the hard work and training that go with the job), most companies will have a shot at reaching the top. The motivation for smart people to be smarter and for skilled people to be even more skilled is for them to be treated in a straightforward manner, and to give them the respect and dignity they deserve.

To lead is to serve,
Coach Carolyn

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