Positive Paranoia: Is it possible that some things you believe about yourself may not be true?

June 1, 2011

As a professional speaker I was in the airport the other day getting ready to fly to Las Vegas. (I’m there more than Cher.) I was relaxing at the President’s Club, eating cheap cheese and old fruit with all my elite-status, high-mileage brethren. The gentleman who sat down beside me wore a baseball cap that read “NYC Police.” He proceeded to tell me he was an undercover cop, so I had to ask, “Then you only wear this hat on your days off?”

I think a great number of people have no idea how they appear to others. You could fill a large psychiatry office with all the books that have been written about how we perceive ourselves. But few books have any real impact in the area of how we are viewed by others. Taking a look at how others see us is not an easy thing to do. However, if we want to have enough personal influence to make all the communication skills and brilliant ideas we have succeed, willingness needs to raise its ugly head. For example, if you sit down to put on your rollerblades and your spouse calls out “Honey, please be careful,” it means you do not skate well! If people look at your artwork and say things like “Wow, you sure used a lot of paint!” or “This would look awesome in the garage,” it means you don’t have any talent.

Getting honest about who you really are to others is crucial to success. It’s a practice common among top businesspeople. In our 10-year survey of 5,000 top professionals, Wynn Solutions found that the most successful – the top 1% – had a realistic view of how others perceived them. This dose of realism serves them well because they can influence others only as far as those others will allow. So if the great self-portrait I’ve painted in my mind far exceeds the exhibit I’ve put on display to the public, I’ll struggle to convince anyone of my genius.

Believing in yourself is great, but you need others also to believe in you if you hope to motivate or lead people in the direction you want. It’s good to have confidence, and certainly self-esteem is important … but if I believed I was OK regardless of society’s opinions, I would be at the grocery store in my underwear.

We sometimes make the mistake of thinking that something’s true if we just believe strongly enough. I believe the speed limit on toll roads should be 100 mph. That’s slower than the no-speed-limit autobahn, so it seems fair to me. But the cop who pulled me over last week believed I should go to jail. So what I believe is often not only irrelevant; it’s illegal!

Is it possible that some things you believe about yourself may not be true? Can you ask a very close, give-it-to-you-straight friend how you come across to others? This may sound to some like an invitation to developing a slight case of paranoia. But spending your life obliviously unaware of what is preventing you from being seen as valuable is much worse. Being worried about not being OK makes you human and relevant. Showing up to the big board meeting in an ’80s dress with shoulder pads could make you (literally) history – especially if you are a man!


Leadership Success: Five BIG LEADERSHIP MISTAKES you may never see coming

August 10, 2010

The key to leadership is influence and the key to influence is making sure your people feel valuable.

  1. The seduction of power: Being the boss can cause some people to believe they are superior beings.  If you feel like you kind of own your people and they are lucky to be working for you, you have a problem. You may be power crazy if you refer to yourself in the 3rd person, you interrupt your employees in the middle of important business tasks to get them to do personal favors for you or people tend to bow and clasp their hands when they ask you questions.
  2. Causing people to stop using common sense: People who are demanding cause their people to get distracted away from their priorities. Common sense is not always that common! You need to make sure you are not distracting your people away from thinking and you get people to think by asking good questions.
  3. Indulging in favoritism: Do you have employees that you like more than others?   Do you think the other employees know that? This is a big deal because it can cause a good employee to lower their productivity.  If some employees feel less valuable than others they will stop giving their best effort.
  4. Overreactions that create liars: You may act in a way that makes your people not want to tell you things (you end up the least informed person in the office). There is enough dishonesty in the world without us creating it in the people around us. Some of us have more control over our reactions that others. Overreactions are an acute awareness. If you have quick reflexes, you tend to be over reactive (a good pilot or Astronaut is the exception but they are hard to find). The key is to be accepting and tolerant or tell people you may overreact but you recover quickly.
  5. Believing that it’s not what you say, it’s what you do:
    Your strategic thinking won’t help you enough.
    What comes out of your mouth creates the culture around you. It’s not what you do, it’s what you say in reality.

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Tired of Employees who Can’t Think on Their Feet?

November 20, 2007

With all the information out there on leadership and management skills, I think it’s interesting that we still keep asking ourselves “How do I get my people to actually think”. Knowing “it” and doing “it” seem to have very little in common these days. You can teach people what to do, but is it possible to teach them how to make good decisions? Our interviews with leaders around the world (no, it’s not just an American problem) indicate that we either have a bumper-crop of idiots taking over the globe or we have forgotten how to set effective examples. I think we get so busy and focused on doing more with less (I personally would prefer to do less with much more) that we forget to show our people how to think strategically, anticipate problems, prepare for change and prioritize. If you have the skills you want your people to possess make sure they see you using them. It’s more than leadership by example. It’s setting the pace and explaining your thinking along the way. However, if you totally suck at the skills your people need to have, you need a talented person to do it for you. You often hear “you don’t need superstars, you just need team players (that’s advice from people who may have lacked talent themselves)”. Get yourself some superstars and the rest of the team will get a lot better, fight their way to the middle or quit. A team full of people who don’t think well on their feet will often stumble (we did not need any research to come up with that one).

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