The Most Dangerous Lies are the Ones We Whisper in our own Ears
The danger of self-deception is it feels helpful while it blocks growth.
It’s surprisingly easy to feed ourselves a line of bull while demonizing dissenters, rejecting disconfirming realities, and affirming ourselves.
No high five:
A couple years ago, I asked my wife if I was a good listener. I fully expected her to give me a high five. Instead she said, “You could be better.”
At that point I almost proved her right by starting to explain why she was wrong. Fortunately I caught myself and confronted some wrong assumptions.
Self-deceived leaders deny the obvious and defend the ridiculous.
Symptoms and expressions of self-deception:
#1. Taking personal credit for success and assigning blame to others.
You choose to say “I” when things go well and “they” when things go poorly. If you don’t use “they”, you blame events or circumstances. “Things didn’t work out.”
#2. Inflating personal worth while devaluing others.
Chances are you believe you’re above average. I’ve read that 70% of us believe we are above average in good looks. 94% of college professors rated themselves above average relative to their colleagues.*
- Misperceive how they’re perceived.
- Fall victim to flattery.
- Don’t have a problem with arrogance. (Sarcasm intended.)
5 ways to confront self-deception:
- Monitor your inner voice as it relates to others. Assume they’re doing their best until proven otherwise.
- Watch for the dark side of your strengths. If you’re great with details, you may be a stubborn jerk.
- Maintain confidence, but ask yourself, “What if I’m wrong?”
- Lean in when feedback surprises you. You’re out of touch if you can’t remember the last time you received “surprising” feedback.
- Practice saying, “I screwed up.” (You aren’t reaching high enough if you aren’t screwing up.)
If you think this post applies to someone else, you’ve fallen victim to self-deception.
What are some possible symptoms and dangers of self-deception?
How might leaders confront self-deception?
Self-awareness takes a lot of hard work and a lot of hard conversations with yourself. It’s an ongoing journey that has no destination! As a leader, how do you best help others on their journey to better self-awareness and their actions within the workplace?
Thanks Lauren. It seems like self-awareness should be easier. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of developing self-awareness is the inclusion of others. When we don’t see ourselves clearly, getting feedback from others is helpful. A 360 degree assessment might help.
The challenge is that when we don’t see ourselves well, the feedback we receive feels wrong. This is exactly the kind of feedback to explore.
I usually ask them questions so they can assess and you can learn about them. Questions like, What worked during your presentation? What didn’t? How do you know the group rec’d your message? What about you presentation was a struggle, what wasn’t? What parts did you really like? Etc….without questions we don’t have a vehicle to reflect. Creating an environment where you hold space for them. That the reflection via questions don’t have correct or incorrect answers that it’s the path to become selfaware.
Thanks, that was really helpful. I know all of students I have mentored have an enormous amount of potential but lack the confidence or motivation to follow through. Providing them with a medium to allow them to self-reflect is always something I’m looking to improve on. Sound questioning, cheers.
One of my first bosses taught me that, “An excuse is nothing more than an admission of guilt.” He broke me of my old habit of making excuses for poor performance. Life has been much easier ever since that tough discussion.
Thanks Matt. Love your story and the powerful lesson. I hadn’t thought of the connection between guilt and excuses. That stings! 🙂
Very important post for companies that desire profitable growth. A key part of increasing sales profitably for example is listening to your buyers and adjusting to their buying journey shifts and needs. Many of the companies i have helped : Inflating personal worth while devaluing others” when it came to their value proposition. Specifically , it was very strong once, but today buyers are telling them it is not, but they actually :” Misperceive how they’re perceived” > I shared content on this and how to change in this article for Selling Power at http://blog.sellingpower.com/gg/2017/03/do-this-one-thing-to-increase-sales-revenue-and-profits.html?utm_source=feedburner%3Atypepad%2Fgerhard&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+typepad%2Fgerhard+%28Selling+Power%29 I hope your readers find it helpful.
Thanks Mark. I hadn’t thought about the context of sales when thinking of misperceptions. It really extends the topic.
Yes – good stuff – only hitch is getting those that need it most to read it! Love the ‘if you’re never screwing up you’re not aiming high enough’ . Thanks for the insight as always Dan
Was also thinking of ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ syndrome!
The story about your wife and then talking about self-deception using your leadership example is a non sequitir. At least the way you portray it. That story is about self-absorption as a person. And has nothing to do with the the ‘leadership’ examples you provide.