It is always lurking. It can be blinding. You forget about it – you do not even know it is there. It can be offensive. It can also be expensive! It can cost you jobs, relationships, positions, projects or even your future. What is it? It is an overload of self-perspective! It happens when you see things solely from your point of view and ignore other perspectives. It is so easy to see the defects or shortcomings in others’ thinking, actions, beliefs – but not your own. It is part of the human condition, and it happens to every one!
Like most things, the key is balance, because a good dose of self-perspective is necessary to effective leadership and productivity. But, too much self-perspective can become a blind spot, lead you down the wrong path, erode trust and break rapport. What are the dangers of self-perspective and what can you do to self-correct instead of self-destruct? The first step is to increase your self-awareness, so you can balance thinking and acting from multiple perspectives. Self-awareness is the cornerstone of Emotional Intelligence (EQ). EQ relates to your ability to perceive, control, evaluate and express emotions.
The Dangers of Self-Perspective Overload
- The Self-Referenced Executive – The CEO of a successful company was upset with an executive in his organization. He felt the executive was over-stepping his boundaries and speaking for the CEO at inappropriate times. We knew from their leadership assessments that the executive was very “self referenced,” meaning he made decisions based on his own criteria. On one hand, many times this made him highly effective. On the other hand, the CEO was “other referenced,” meaning he valued advice and input from others before deciding and acting. This resulted in a mismatch of styles between these two leaders. In the end, the CEO decided too much trust had been lost and the executive lost his position within the organization.
- My Way… On The Right Of Way – A power utility wanted to increase the width of its Right of Way easements outside of a major metropolitan area. That area was filled with beautiful farms; some farms had been in families for over one hundred years. The utility followed their typical protocols, sending out letters telling people why and what they were doing, and inviting people to see their “show” about the impacted areas. But, there was a major backlash. The people felt the company was not allowing them to have a true voice in the matter and not listening to their perspectives, so they formed coalitions, mobilized via social media and recruited influencers to tell this “David versus Goliath” story. In the end, the utility slunk away to its corner, licking its wounds and wondering what had happened. People want to be heard and sometimes corporations have old protocols in place that don’t keep up with the changing times. What worked in past years may not work when new drivers such as social media and other elements come in to play.
Self-Perspective Warning Signals There are daily warning signals when you are too cocooned in self-perspective. Once you become aware of these signals, take time to pause, reflect and seek outside input. The key is to self-correct, so you don’t self-destruct!
- For professionals, warning signals can range from people going quiet when you enter the room – to forcefully opposing your positions. Build a “checks and balances” system by surrounding yourself with key people you trust to tell you when you are stuck in self-perspective. Although their feedback may sting at times, view it as useful – as a rung on a ladder that can move you and your team up to something more rewarding. A key question: is this about isolated behavior or repetitive behavior? If something happens just once or twice, that may be isolated. If it happens on a repetitive basis, it is a signal that requires attention.
- For leaders, a warning signal is when others label you. Those labels can range from “off in left field,” to “aloof”, “full of himself,” and so on. The dilemma is that most people will not say those things to your face – so surrounding yourself with a few people who will provide you honest feedback is critical, along with assessments and 360-degree feedback. It is not unusual for people to disagree with some assessments results. But, instead of dismissing the results, ask yourself what is useful in the feedback? Seek specific feedback – not just conclusions – to either verify or discount the results. Then, plot an appropriate course of action. Learn and practice strategies daily to think, act and speak in multiple perspectives.
- For organizations, signals are often hidden within the ranks of your own people, customers and other key stakeholders. What consistent complaints or concerns do these groups voice? Signals can also be found in the latest mega-trends research that reveals changing habits and expectations from customers, societies, vendors, consumers and others. These sources can provide warning signals if an organization is becoming too self-focused. As the world changes, so must organizational protocols, business models, outreach methods and communication channels. Otherwise, too much self-perspective can lead you down the path of Uber, Enron, Sears and other organizations.
Of course, a good dose of self-perspective is natural and necessary to making decisions and being productive. But, as with most things, it is striking the right balance of thinking and acting in multiple perspectives that makes the difference in you and your organization being you’re best!