Leadership and Self Deception

Bud broke the silence. “Kate’s story raises for me an astonishing point, Tom. And that is, when I’m in the box, I need people to cause trouble for me — I actually need problems.”

But remember, when we’re in the box, we’re self-deceived — we’re blind to the truth about others and ourselves. And one of the things we’re blind to is how the box itself undercuts our every effort to obtain the outcomes we think we want.”

“In fact, Tom,” Kate added, “Bryan and I provide each other with such perfect justification, it’s almost as if we colluded to do so. It’s as if we said to each other,

Bud placed both hands on the table and leaned toward me. “So simply by being in the box,” he said slowly and earnestly, “I provoke in others the very behavior I say I hate in them. And they then provoke in me the very behavior they say they hate in me.”

1. An act contrary to what I feel I should do for another is called an act of “self-betrayal.”

2. When I betray myself, I begin to see the world in a way that justifies my self-betrayal.

3. When I see the world in a self-justifying way, my view of reality becomes distorted.

4. So—when I betray myself, I enter the box.

5. Over time, certain boxes become characteristic of me, and I carry them with me.

6. By being in the box, I provoke others to be in the box.

7. In the box, we invite mutual mistreatment and obtain mutual justification. We collude in giving each other reason to stay in the box.

The more people we can find to agree with our side of the story, the more justified we will feel in believing that side of the story. I might recruit my spouse to join with me in blaming my son, for example, or I might gossip about others in order to gather allies at work in my collusion against another person or department.

“So the box gets in the way of our achieving results.”

“There are actually two main reasons why the box undercuts results. The first is what Kate has just taught us. When we’re in the box, what motivates us most is the need for justification, and what will bring us justification is very often at odds with what is best for the organization. Does that make sense?”

“It has to do with my ‘who-focus’ when I’m in the box,”

Out of the box, my what-focus at work is results. In the box, by contrast, my what-focus is justification.

many of the people typically described as being results-focused are anything but that. In the box, they value results primarily for the purpose of creating or sustaining their own stellar reputations — their who-focus is themselves.

when Chuck Staehli succeeded, or when he failed?

Self-betrayal is the germ that creates the disease of self-deception.

I saw in myself a leader who was so sure of the brilliance of his own ideas that he couldn’t allow brilliance in anyone else’s;

was I seeing them as people or as objects?”

“the question ‘How do I get out of the box?’ is really two questions. The first question is ‘How do I get out?’ and the second is ‘How do I stay out once I’m out?’ The question you’re really worried about, I think, is the second—how you stay out.

What doesn’t work in the box
1. Trying to change others.
2. Doing my best to “cope” with others.
3. Leaving
4. Communicating
5. Implementing new skills or techniques
6. Changing my behavior

“In the moment we cease resisting others, we’re out of the box—liberated from self-justifying thoughts and feelings.”

But since there are many people in my life—some that I may be more in the box toward than others—in an important sense, I can be both in and out of the box at the same time. In the box toward some people and out toward others.

it sometimes occurs to me that each of these people on the road is just as busy as I am and just as wrapped up in his or her own life as I am in mine. And in these moments, when I get out of the box toward them, other drivers seem very different to me. In a way, I feel that I understand them and can relate to them, even though I know basically nothing about them.”

You’re worried that in order to stay out of the box, you have to do everything that pops into your head to do for others. And that seems overwhelming, if not foolhardy. Am I right?”

“In other cases,” he continued, “getting out of the box may mean that I relinquish a prejudice that I have held toward those not like myself—people of a different race, for example, or faith, or culture. I will be less judgmental when I see them as people than when I saw them as objects. I will treat them with more courtesy and respect. Again, however, do such changes seem burdensome to you?”

In fact, when we’re feeling overwhelmed, it generally isn’t our obligation to others but our in-the-box desperation to prove something about ourselves that we find overwhelming.

you’ve probably felt overwhelmed, over-obligated, and overburdened far more often in the box than out. To begin with, you might compare your night last night with the nights that came before.”

“Which brings us back to your question, Tom. In your prior job, when you were thinking that your old boss was a real jerk, were you trying to help him, or was this judgment of him really a way of just helping yourself?”

it’s quite easy to get in the box because the justification is so easy—the other guy’s a jerk! But remember, once I get in the box in response, I actually need the other guy to keep being a jerk so that I’ll remain justified in blaming him for being a jerk

Because in the box, I need problems.

Out of the box I understand what it’s like to be in the box. And since, when I’m out of the box, I neither need nor provoke others to be jerks, I can actually ease, rather than exacerbate, tough situations.

“she didn’t need to blame me—even though I made a mistake—because she herself wasn’t in the box. Out of the box she had no need for justification.”

We keep people focused on results and on others.

Knowing the material
* Self-betrayal leads to self-deception and “the box.”
* When you’re in the box, you can’t focus on results.
* Your influence and success will depend on being out of the box.
* You get out of the box as you cease resisting other people.
Living the material
* Don’t try to be perfect. Do try to be better.
* Don’t use the vocabulary—“the box,” and so on—with people who don’t already know it. Do use the principles in your own life.
* Don’t look for others’ boxes. Do look for your own.
* Don’t accuse others of being in the box. Do try to stay out of the box yourself.
* Don’t give up on yourself when you discover you’ve been in the box. Do keep trying.
* Don’t deny that you’ve been in the box when you have been. Do apologize; then just keep marching forward, trying to be more helpful to others in the future.
* Don’t focus on what others are doing wrong. Do focus on what you can do right to help.
* Don’t worry whether others are helping you. Do worry whether you are helping others.