This article is based on the concept of self-deception in the book Leadership and Self Deception by the Arbinger Institute.
I like to conduct this activity in some training courses where I ask the participants to rate themselves as leaders on a scale of 1 to 10. I ask them to write down the score they give to themselves on a piece of paper without showing the score to others. When everyone is done, I ask each individual to tell me their score and then plot this on a line on the board that goes from 1 to 10. 90% of the responses are usually between 7-9. This is people basically saying they’re very good but they hold back just a wee bit to show some humility by not scoring themselves as 10. You may find the odd outlier – a 3 or a 10 – but this is quite rare.
As I point out how all the responses lie within a very narrow zone, the participants start to laugh as they realize that there is a coincidence, a pattern here. I then ask them to do the same exercise but this time imagining how their colleagues would score them. This time, the zone is not 7-9, it is more like 4-6. The question I then ask them is “what is this distance between the 7-9 and 4-6 due to?” The answer of course is self-deception.
The One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson is one of the best-selling books of all time with 13 million copies published in 37 languages. It is written in story fashion about a young man searching for an effective manager that he can work with. He finds mostly managers who just care about the organization and its results not about the people. He also finds managers who care about the people but their organizations suffer due to lack of attention to organizational goals…
Ir was in the early 1950’s when the concept of “management by objectives” was introduced by Peter Drucker. The idea was that the boss would agree a set of goals for the year with each subordinate and then review the performance against these goals. Managers also learned about the acronym SMART for goal setting meaning goals had to be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. This methodology of goal setting has become so established that few managers have actually questioned if this approach works.
You are having a conversation with your team and someone asks a question about the best way forward. You honestly don’t have a clue. Or you might be a trainer and one of the participants asks a tough question and you simply don’t know the answer. What do you say in such a situation? Do you blurt out some vague generalities in the hope that this might do the trick or do you own up to the fact when you don’t know the answer?
One of the facts about management that seems contrary to conventional wisdom is that most managers are really “nice” guys who do not like confronting their subordinates and holding them accountable. These managers consider this part of management to be a real hassle, something they would rather avoid. They believe this is an unnecessary evil and something they have to put up with as part of the heavy burden of management. Managers who think like this of course are never really going to be able to hold any one accountable. Then there is the mean-spirited manager who is completely task oriented, and who does not give a damn about people. Managers with some degree of balance between their concern for people and concern for holding the same people accountable for their performance are unfortunately a bit of a rarity.
So how does a manager strike a balance and make the process of confronting subordinates about their behavior or performance a bit easier and less stressful for both parties?..
Daniel Goleman, the “inventor” of the concept of Emotional Intelligence, says he once met a CEO who complained that despite having MBAs from great universities, many of his managers were unable to perform and deliver. The explanation for this according to Daniel Goleman lies in the interplay between IQ and emotional intelligence. For high performance and leadership, you need both…