Deceiving Self …

Over at the Lead Change Group blog today, some guy with a fictitious-sounding name is going on about how we deceive ourselves and why that is not a good idea.  Here’s a taste of what this so-called “John E. Smith” character is talking up this morning:


The Box of Self-Deception

Identify someone with a problem and you’ll be identifying someone who resists the suggestion that he has one.  That’s self-deception – the inability to see that one has a problem.”  

(The Arbinger Institute in Leadership and Self-Deception, 2nd ed., p. 17)

We are “in the box,” as the Arbinger folks say, when we engage in certain behaviors which create or reinforce our self-deception.

Of course, I’m not sure that the above is always the case. A leader who has a problem may be so self-aware, self-confident, and self-effacing that he or she simply acknowledges reality by making amendments and correcting their behavior.

However, most of us are not quite that perfect, so “the box appears to fit” in many cases, so to speak.    Continue reading here …

While you are on the Lead Change Group site, take a few minutes to poke around and sample some of the many useful and engaging posts around leadership and personal development from a diverse and accomplished group of writers, thinkers, and doers.

Shoot, you might even consider joining and adding your strong voice to our efforts to increase character-based leadership.

Meanwhile, I will stroll blithely on, believing strongly in my own cleverness in the Heartland …



Asking “Why?” …

Snow FLowerChip Bell regularly stimulates my leadership and management thinking … as he did recently with an amusing, but thought-provoking post over at the Lead Change Group, cleverly titled “Don’t Be A Leader of Stupid Rules, which ranks as one of my favorite blog post titles of 2016 so far.  

Chip’s post addresses the all too familiar tendency in the workplace to have rules and processes which everyone follows, but few know why.

Here’s my response to Chip’s post, with a little editing for clarity and expanded reflection:


I was once responsible for helping employees install a standardized organizational system for both paper and electronic workflow in an organization.  As part of that, I would spend much time working with individual employees as they literally took their workspace apart, organized all items into standardized categories and reorganized how they stored data and materials.

Analyzing work processes was a big part of this changeover.   One time,  an employee struggled with what to label a work step in which she received forms from another employee and in turn, gave them to a third employee, without doing anything to the forms, such as verifying or sorting.  After much discussion, we were unable to determine why she needed to do this step, other than that familiar “I was told this was part of my job and I’ve always done it this way” statement.

Similarly to Chip’s story about Catherine The Great and the flower , I finally learned from a long-time employee that decades earlier, two women who did not like each other each had responsibility for a step in this work process.  Since they could not get along, their manager chose to assign a third employee to receive and pass on the documents.

Over the years, just like the soldiers guarding the empty spot, generations of employees were taught to follow this  “system” without any awareness of why that step existed.

Two lessons here for me: 


This is first and foremost a failure of management.  The original manager had the authority and the opportunity to directly address the issue.

Had that original manager addressed the workplace impact of  both employee’s behavior with them, and either directed or coached the employees to work together without affecting workflow, this story would not be mine to tell to illustrate poor management practice.


Sometimes leaders overestimate their impact and sometimes they underestimate it.  Many employees, especially those new to a process, a workgroup, or an organization, will simply accept whatever they perceive as “the way we do it”.   In order to fit in, they then attempt to master doing whatever it is that the system requires them to do, with little reflection on why they are doing it

Fortunately, this is changing in the modern workplace, due to the efforts of a few thoughtful and forward-thinking souls.  A valuable employee is now more often seen as the one who will say “Wait … why are we doing this?” and expect a reasonable answer.   They will comply when to do so makes sense, but will question when motivations and reasons are not clear. 

Ira Chaleff is one of the most valuable and articulate voices driving this welcome workplace and societal trend.  For a great deal more about “FOLLOWERSHIP, click the link to read my previous post on this topic. 

Related Observation:  A GOOD MANAGER KNOWS WHEN TO ASK “WHY”  …

As an operations officer (think Chief Training Officer) in the US Army Reserve, I learned quickly that simply walking up to a tank idling in the wilderness and asking the crew “What are you doing?” as innocently as possible was a good thing.

Listening to the responses to this simple query would provide me with a wealth of insight into their morale, how the training was going, and whether they understood their roles and responsibilities within the context of our mission.

Pretty good return for a simple question …

Chip’s post is a good reminder of how we need to continually analyze what we are doing, why we are doing it, and whether we should stop or change doing it:)

Trying to remember to follow my own advice in the Heartland ….


Viewpoints and Books …


Book and Glasses - Morguefile.comThe purpose of a good education is to show you that there are three sides to a two-sided story.”

Stanley Fish

I have often heard some version of the following:

There are always three sides to an argument about the truth:   My side, your side, and the actual reality.

This is most likely very true, and as you add participants, the number of possible “sides” grows.  We are all creations of our culture, our experiences, our beliefs, and our values.

No wonder we cannot all just agree to get along … we cannot even look at something without creating multiple interpretations.   As has often been said, at least by me, “Your terrorist is my freedom fighter”.

Why am I harping on this today?

No special reason, even with the political campaign in full tilt boogie spewing examples over the landscape of how people see the same objective things very differently, very subjectively.

Take a little time to look at this image and think about what it seems to show you.  Cultural Optical Illusion -

We need to keep reminding ourselves that our natural tendency is to view people, things, and events through our personal lens, which sets up us to be influenced by our own biases, fallacious reasoning, and stereotypes … which we all have or experience in abundance.

About the image:  Western eyes usually see a family in a corner of a room with some kind of vegetation visible in the window.  African eyes see the “corner” as a tree and the window becomes a container balanced on a woman’s head.

We see what we are conditioned to see …

Education, especially the reading and discussion of books, can be one of several powerful tools to help us move beyond our own perceptions into the larger world, IF WE pay attention to the following suggestions:

… Choose books written to expand thinking, rather than control knowledge.

… Ensure that books are written in the spirit of discovery and curiosity, rather than the zeal of blind passion and persuasion.

… Select books that contain viewpoints with which we do not already agree.

… Discuss what we read with people that hold varying viewpoints and know how to talk, rather than just convince.

… Remember the sum total of all each of us individually knows is like a single drop of water in the ocean.

… Use what we learn  from books to support our own continued discernment.

… Avoid using what we learn as a weapon to convert others.

Books can be powerful  learning tools or dangerous weapons … as with many things in life, it’s more about how you use something.

Well, I feel a little more prepared to move forward thoughtfully now.  How about you?

Trying not to feel overconfident about my own learning path in the Heartland ….




Book and Glasses –

Optical Illusion –




Four Benefits to Failing …

Failure - Gene Kranz quote - Wikipedia Public DomainFailure - Train Wreck - Public Domain via WIkipedia

First, let me clearly state that the NASA team, under the steadfast leadership of Gene Kranz, displayed amazing teamwork, collaboration, and creativity under intense pressure.  The results speak for themselves … astronauts brought back to earth alive.

Truly a story worthy of a well-made film headlined by Tom Hanks, who brings gravitas and humanity to each role …

However, that said, you can add the famous line about failure not being an option to my list of things I will never say … Continue reading

“Good Morning, Dave” ….

US Bank Login - Boob


On an originally pretty early Spring Saturday morning, I was just trying to keep up with my financial responsibilities and ensure that the bills were paid on time and nothing nefarious was happening to my bank accounts … you know, being a responsible citizen and adult.

Right off the bat, this supposedly helpful application is calling me a name… being insulted by a collection of 1’s and 0’s is not how I imagined my morning would go.

Root Cause analysis time – I see three possibilities here:


Very possible, but this option involves the idea of my personal responsibility.  

The possibility  that my own actions or inactions are to blame, because I just did not think ahead or consider this possibility makes me seem inept and foolish.  

Since this is not good for me – UNACCEPTABLE.


Again, very possible, and this feeds into my tendency to see conspiracy everywhere.  Another plus to this theory is that I have no personal responsibility whatsoever in this matter.  It’s that damned machine, or faulty programming, or a malevolent digital entity toying with us humans.

This one has promise – definite MAYBE ACCEPTABLE.


Possible and maybe likely, but not an attractive option, for two reasons.  

First, I do not believe God works this way.

Second, I do not care for the implication, if it turns out that He does.

I would prefer to keep up the illusion that God thinks I am pretty cool – so, UNACCEPTABLE.

GIven my penchant for avoiding personal responsibility, the second option is most logical AND the most personally palatable … 

With tongue firmly in cheek, trying to make my world seem okay again in the Heartland ….


Image source:  Me

Humor source:  Me