Leadership and Self Deception – Arbinger Institute

Nov. 26, 2005 – Subtitled “Getting Out of the Box” this is another parable type story that works well. Amazon pairs it with another book entitled Bonds That Make Us Free: Healing Our Relationships, Coming to Ourselves by C. Terry Warner, also of the Arbinger Institute. I thought both were excellent and would recommend both. TheLeadership book explores the precepts put forth in Bonds within a business context.

It’s tough to really boil this down to a bullet (but I’m working on learning the skill), so I guess it would be this: everything starts with us individually as a person. It’s action and reaction. Every action we take causes a reaction. Sometimes that cause and effect is intentional, but often it is subconscious, and we don’t see what we are doing as the cause of a situation or circumstance that is a problem. Whether it’s cultural or just human nature, we look for solutions to problems “out there somewhere.” No one immediately looks inward to assess whether they are part of the problem. Both these books show how we deceive ourselves to think that what we believe, think, feel or act on is not part of every situation we are involved in.

Part of my job sometimes involves dealing with unhappy, irate and angry clients – both internal and external ones. Many times there are more than two parties involved in a dispute, each with their own version of the story, each with their own agenda, each with their own idea of what a fair resolution would be. On days when I am most cynical, I feel that all these people see is retribution and restitution: find someone to blame and make them pay. But I can see the truth of what both these books have to say and how the application of these ideas can make a difference. On days when I have listened carefully to someone and heard that their anger isn’t the particular situation we are discussing, but many other things in their life that have made this problem the focus of accumulated disappointment or despair, I have been able to offer a sympathic ear. So much of the time people want understanding and to be heard. Kindness costs nothing, so why are we so stingy in giving it? Things that could make such a difference in the workplace – patience, courtesy, praise, empathy, understanding – are found wanting in so many places and yet we never look inwardly to assess if we have something to do with the absence. That must be management’s problem – right? These books are great for starting the journey from the outside in. To change anything at all, we have to start with ourselves.

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