Try telling a colleague or subordinate that he has a problem, and the depth of his self-deception will become clear. I wrote about this in my last post. Here are a few more thoughts on the matter.
Even the most astute managers, no matter how much leadership training or executive coaching they’ve had, can harbor self-deceiving tendencies that keep them hiding and ‘safe’ from the truth. All it takes is elevated stress for this occupational virus to sideline you—and it’s usually contagious, spreading throughout the work force.
Managers often pride themselves on how well they listen and show interest in subordinates’ family members. Some have received training in how to express “authentic” empathy. But people have keen internal radar systems, and they almost always detect efforts to manipulate them. If they think their boss is trying to outsmart them or clumsily demonstrating a learned management skill, they can smell the hypocrisy a mile away. It’s exceptionally difficult to feign genuine interest.
No matter what we do on the outside, people primarily respond to how we feel about them on the inside. It takes honesty and empathy to generate performance gains.
Always remember that no matter how nice you are when “suggesting” an improvement, your employees will have an internal reaction. That said, there’s no need to go overboard and kill them with kindness. You can be firm, yet invite a productivity or commitment upgrade. This isn’t easy. Giving feedback that works to motivate improved performance never is.
Quite frankly, unless you’ve worked on your own issues, you’ll struggle. Unless you’ve uncovered your own layers of self-deception, through the process of self-development and executive coaching, it will be hard to offer up your own stories and examples to help others improve.
Karen Blakeley talks about this in her new book, Leadership Blind Spots and What To Do About Them. She helps leaders identify the subtle pressures that make it particularly difficult to keep on learning once they move into a leadership role – with potentially serious implications.
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Author: Cathy Shaughnessy
Cathy Shaughnessy is a PRISM award winning ICF Master Certified Coach and author of the book series The Really Competent Coach. Cathy coaches senior leaders, mentors credentialed coaches, trains fledgling coaches and helps organizations build strong coaching cultures.
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