It’s that time again! Our Annual Meeting, Presented by Xcel Energy, is fast approaching, on Feb 29 this year! Our theme this year is Building a New Table (register HERE), and we’ve invited powerful speakers to talk about that together: Tonya Allen, President of the McKnight Foundation; Ling Becker, Director of Ramsey County’s Workforce Solutions; and Senator Norm Coleman, former St. Paul Mayor. Employers are facing a very complex political, economic, and workforce landscape. Our intent is to discuss how we navigate moving forward.
This is our most important event of the year. It highlights the Chamber’s priorities and sets the stage for our work ahead. It’s also the best opportunity to network with other Chamber members and make new connections. And, of course, it’s a fun and festive event! I’m really hoping you’ll come, bring a friend we haven’t met yet!
My thoughts for this week’s blog extend to my own growth moving forward. This past week I spoke with a professional coach. A good friend of mine had recommended a woman she’s worked with and, since I deeply respect my friend and how she carries herself, I was hoping that I could learn some things as well.
You see, I feel like this next season of leadership will require even more of me as well, and I need some outside help to be better prepared. For me and, candidly, for you. The issue I want to lean into? Self deception. I want to check myself, determine just how much of an “echo chamber” I’m living in. In a nutshell, self-deception can either obscure certain truths about myself (that I might not see) or potentially corrupt my view of others (so that I won’t listen to them? Acknowledge their truth?). It can inhibit my ability to make wise and helpful decisions. I believe that, to the extent that I am self-deceived, both my happiness and my leadership are undermined.
And so, I made the call. This coach and I had a lovely first conversation (I bet they’ll get tougher). She recommended that I read a book and then we’ll get together for a “session” to review. She’ll also have some coaching tools for me regarding how to better handle hard conversations to ensure they remain productive (and not contentious).
I’ll take you through my journey this year. My goal? I want to reduce feelings of conflict, enliven my own desire and capacity for teamwork, redouble my own accountability, and amplify our ability to achieve results together.
The first book I’m reading: “Leadership and Self-Deception, Getting Out of the Box” by The Arbinger Institute.
This week I’ll share where I start, and the first couple of chapters.
In my own terms, self-deception is my blind spot. “What am I missing?” I usually am able to build strong, productive relationships with people I work with, but not always. To the extent that I can grow and change, to improve that, I want to.
The book starts with a story of an executive, Tom, in a new company. His boss, Bud, is taking him on this learning journey of self-deception. Bud starts asking questions intended to open Tom’s eyes to the idea that he, like all of us, struggles with self-deception. He just doesn’t know it (!!).
Story or not, I saw myself in Tom and was feeling pinched myself. The first zingers: “Do you indulge people with kindness and other ‘soft stuff’ you can think of in order to get people to do what you want? Even though you still feel scornful toward them?” And then, “how do you feel when you’re ‘treating them right’? Are you still feeling they’re a problem?” And finally, “do you feel that you have to ‘put up with’ people - that you have to work pretty hard to succeed when you’re stuck with some of the people you’re stuck with?” Ouch.
After a long conversation together, laying out examples of how self-deception interferes with productive relationships, Bud concluded: “there’s nothing more common in organizations than self-deception.” He calls it being ‘in the box.’ “Think about a person from your work experience who’s a big problem - say, someone who’s been a major impediment in teamwork. Does the person you’re thinking of believe he’s the problem like you believe he is?” “Identify someone with a problem, and you’ll be identifying someone who resists the suggestion that he has one. That’s self-deception - the problem of not knowing and resisting the possibility that one has a problem.”
“Of all the problems in organizations, self-deception is the most common and the most damaging. Think about it, Tom. You can’t make headway solving problems if the people causing the problems refuse to consider how they might be responsible. Our top strategic initiative is to minimize individual and organizational self-deception.”
Of course, the “people causing the problems” just may be me. Hmm.
Enough for today. I have to step away, do some vacuuming, to process all this.
See you in the trenches,