Blind spots. We all have them. And not just in the rearview mirror of our cars. Like insecurities and distortions in the way we perceive things, blind spots they come with the territory of being human. By recognizing your blind spots and taking action to offset them, you get to see what you would have missed, correct what you would have skewed and choose from clarity instead of fear. This is what I call “taking honest inventory.”
One blind spot that needs self-management is the ego. The truth is, most of us are more egotistical than we think. We may never admit it to anyone, but we frequently place ourselves and our beliefs at the center of the universe. Families, companies, and entire nations are too often guided by unspoken rules and politics that exist solely to accommodate the egos of a select few “leaders” or “ideologies.” We have seen the results when people in power need to feel especially important, superior, and indispensable. But no matter who we are, all of us suffer to some degree from the tyranny of our own egos.
Here’s the problem. When we live, breathe, act, and speak from our ego, we end up acting in ways that are detrimental to our own success—and to the well-being of the people and institutions to which we have devoted our lives. By catering to the whims of our egos and insecurities—and by remaining unaware—we’re actually shooting ourselves, our families, and our organizations in the proverbial foot.
In my book, The Real Rules of Life, Real Rule #15 says: Everybody, including you, has blind spots. The paradox of power is that strength comes from empowering others. The key to building strong organizations, being effective parents and living the fullest, richest lives possible is learning to let go of our own egoist insecurities. When we do, we solidify our own sense of worth, empower others, and lead them (from behind) in getting exceptional results.
Pass the Ball!
I often tell CEO’s to “think like Phil Jackson.”
As a five-time champion NBA coach, Phil understands that less is more. The key to the Lakers’ success is that he has created authentic relationships with each man on his team. He empowers his players by allowing them to engage in the process of playing basketball and have a sense of ownership as a result. That’s the way you bring out the best in people. It’s also the way you create purpose and meaning, and the way you engender motivation and loyalty in the people who work (or play) for you.
It works much the same way in an office environment. As a leader, it’s your job to give opportunity and responsibility to the members of your team—in other words, to distribute (i.e., delegate) the ball. In basketball lingo, “You’ve got to know how to be the point guard rather than the center.” Or, in corporate talk, good leaders bring out the best in their team by creating opportunities for each member to show his or her special skills and demonstrate what they can do to help the organization meet its goals.
We have seen how one CEO from our earlier example, didn’t know how to empower his people to be team players. By taking all the power for himself, he had unknowingly sapped his employees’ motivation, undermined their creativity, and lowered their potential. Unfortunately, after 25 years of executive coaching with some of the world’s top leaders in business and government—and their high-level management teams—I can say that this kind of egotistical behavior is not uncommon. Nor is it uncommon in the families I work with.
Acting like a Team—or a Family
We may call ourselves “teams” and “families,” yet, we often don’t behave that way. In this way, parenting and running a company can be strikingly similar. Consider a group of exceptionally talented employees (or children) who are sitting on their hands, looking up to see how they could please and impress their boss (or parents)—and how they can outdo one another in the process. This is not team-like or family-like behavior. Each may work hard and perform well as an individual, but the fact that they are walking around on eggshells, not wanting to rock the boat with one another, does not make for an effective work or family environment.
In a corporate setting, those who refuse to kiss up to the boss eventually rebel and leave. It’s the same in a family. Much of the responsibility often rests on the shoulders of the boss and parents. Bosses and parents who never learn to share power with their employees or children, instead focusing on having power over them, set themselves up for struggle. As a result, none of the executives or children feels the courage to speak up, challenge, or disagree with the folks in charge. Nor do they feel the safety, freedom, or motivation to generate new energy, ideas, and enthusiasm. Leaders and parents who use their power to stifle instead of inspire are often unaware of what they’re doing to flatten the energy in their companies and families. Sooner or later, they find themselves surrounded by compliant (secretly rebellious) subordinates or disconnected children. And they wonder why they feel all alone.
By getting our egos, insecurities, and blind spots out of the equation, a leader’s or parent’s potential for effectiveness increases, as does their level of engagement and morale. And this “empowerment effect,” as I call it, begins to spread throughout the company or family.
Misuse of power comes at a high cost: whether it’s the effectiveness, integrity and productivity of an organization—or the disconnection and despair in a family. Kids and employees become disheartened when their leader/parent can’t seem to get out of his or her own way. Or doesn’t seem to care. Smart, talented people don’t stick around very long in a place where they’re not allowed to shine. Misuse of power also leads to passive-aggressive behavior and back-stabbing behind closed doors. When people feel they have to resort to such measures to survive, there’s a lot of infighting, office/family “politics” and positioning for favored status—i.e., stroking the bosses’ or Mom’s and Dad’s egos. As a result, you have a weak and fragmented management team or family. And an elephant in the living- or boardroom.
Dysfunctional teams and families breed compliant people whose highest held values are security and conformity. They won’t really speak out for fear that they’re putting their jobs and promotional status, allowance, or privileges on the line. Instead of a culture of teamwork and entrepreneurship, you have a culture of intimidation, compliance, and fear. Without the capacity to talk things out and work together, problems are allowed to fester. Effectiveness is compromised. Little issues that could have been nipped in the bud by open communication, understanding, and clear agreements spread into larger infections, and eventually grow into organizational and familial dis-ease.
This is where resentment, and wrongful termination claims, begins to seep into the organization’s framework. It’s no small surprise that these are the kinds of businesses and families that are most susceptible to crises, and the most likely to suffer from long, drawn-out conflicts.
So what kind of preventive measures can you enact to protect yourself, your family, and your company from wasting time and opportunities? And harvesting the richness that effective teams and families are capable of providing? How do you take Real Rule #15 regarding blind spots, and turn it into an actionable plan? And where do you begin?
The following questions are designed to help identify the blind spots in your life.
- Do you empower your colleagues and employees? If so, how? Could you do more to empower them?
- Do you empower your partner? If so, how? Could you do more to empower him or her?
- Do you empower your kids? If so, how? Could you do more to empower them?
- What are some practical, everyday things you could do to “pass the ball” to the other people in your life?
- If it was just you out there, like a professional boxer or skater, what do you guess would be your greatest asset? Greatest liability? Write both of them down and explain why.
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Copyright Ken Druck, Ph.D., organizational consultant, executive coach, resilience expert, and author of The Real Rules of Life (Hay House). Permission to reprint granted with proper credit.