This blog is based on the book Leadership & Self-Deception
Leadership isn't about what you do to people or for people as much as it is an attitude about people. How you view others will largely determine how you lead them. If you have a negative bias or assumption about a family member, an employee, or business partner, you will be more likely to communicate with them in a manner that will justify your belief about them. When you look at others as objects (using them to get what you want) as opposed to people (treating them the way you want to be treated) you will find yourself in the box every single time. It's important to note that when you are operating from inside the box, you will never experience happiness, fulfillment, effective communication or influence. In other words you lose every single time.
Unfortunately, most of us spend the majority of our time in the box. How does one get inside the box? It begins when a person chooses to do the opposite of what they should do. For example, if Mike observes his coworker John in need of help because he has to move some boxes from the front room to the storage room, Mike has two choices. He can either honor what he should do by giving John a hand or he can self-betray and choose not to help John. Once Mike chooses not to honor his thought or intention he will immediately go inside the box.
Once in the box, Mike will begin to see John through the eyes of self-justification. Mike may see John as someone who is behind in his work, lazy, wasting his time socializing, and as a result of justifying his (Mike) view, decides that it is in the best interest for John to complete his work on his own. At the same time, Mike sees himself as hard-working, diligent, a good example to the rest of the team, and an individual who always completes his work on time. Once Mike chooses to be in the box by not honoring what he should do, he becomes self deceived. Mike cannot see the situation for what it really is because he is only looking through the eyes of self-justification. Now Mike has to work at proving himself right by rationalizing why he shouldn't help.
This perspective of the situation is based on on being right-- the way Mike sees the situation. As long as he self-justifies by blaming John or rationalizing why John is behind in his work, Mike will never be able to function outside the box. If John asks Mike for help, Mike may even go so far as to tell John why he's not going to help. He may tell John that he should focus more on the job and spend less time socializing. As a result of Mike communicating from inside the box, he will actually invite John to be inside the box as well. John will begin to self justify his actions by informing John that he is too busy or does not have enough hours in the day to complete his work or he may share with John that people are always asking him to help and therefore he cannot complete his tasks on time.
You can see very quickly how we an put ourselves in the box by choosing to think how we can serve our needs and not honor what we should do for others. Being in the box isn't just something we do at work. We tend to like being in the box at home as well. For example, Bill comes home from a hard-working day and wants his wife to acknowledge him with a kiss and a hug or a warm greeting. As he walks in the door, he sees his wife Sally cleaning up from a busy day with the kids. She throws him a glance and a quick acknowledgment and continues on with her activity. She continues to ask Bill to help her to quickly complete her activities. Bill sees that she is very busy and has the thought of helping her clean up but soon asks himself why she isn't acknowledging him (the way he wants to be acknowledged).
He then self betrays and enters the box. In that moment, he begins to see Sally as cold, inconsiderate, not making him the priority, disrespectful, etc. While in the box, Bill sees himself as hard-working, a provider for the family, a loving husband and father, and in comparison to other husbands, a pretty darn good guy. When Sally asks Bill to help her with her activities, Bill begins to rip into her about why supper isn't ready. As a result Sally chooses to go into the box and informs Bill about all of the stress she had to endure throughout the day. She tells Bill that he does not appreciate what she does around the home and for their business. The exchange goes back and forth as each person self-justifies. Both Bill and Sally become self deceived. No will win and no one will be happy. This pattern may repeat daily or weekly.
Until a person can see that they are in the box, he/she will not be able to get out of the box. So how does a person get out of the box? You can see how being in the box is something that is quite common for individuals both in the workplace and at home. As long as you are willing to see people as objects who are there to serve your needs as opposed to how you can serve their needs, you will be in the box every single time. Unfortunately nobody wins in the box.
If Bill would've come home and observed that his wife needed help because she was very busy, and honored his thought (and her request) instead of thinking about how Sally can serve his needs, he would've operated from outside of the box. More than likely Sally would have eventually acknowledged him (once her activity was accomplished) because of the value that Bill provided to her. The key to living outside of the box is to serve and honor others. To see them as people, not objects. When you know you should do something for some else (help them with a task, serving a need, paying a compliment, etc.), do it.
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