Welcome to leadership from the balcony.
My name is Shawn Griesemer with my co-host Justin Dorroh. And each week we bring you a new leadership concept to inspire your growth and effectiveness as a leader in every area of your life.
In my own head, I make a story with a few disconnected parts and build a narrative and start to experience the emotions of what that narrative means and realize I have no idea if what I think is true is actually true. It's embarrassing.
Something feels at risk. If we allow disagreement to come in, all of a sudden what bound us together may fracture. And now we don't find the confidence of being as bound together anymore.
This is part one of our discussion into the book Unlocking Leadership Mindtraps by Jennifer Garvey Berger. These mindtraps are ways of thinking that inform how we see the world. They once protected us and shielded us from the complexity around us. However, in our current world, shielding ourselves from complexity is no longer helping us thrive, but trapping us, prohibiting us from thriving. Thanks for joining us on the balcony. We hope you enjoy peering over the railing to gain an expanded leadership perspective.
You know, today's topic, the five leadership mindtraps, is a book written by Jennifer Garvey Berger. That's tough to say. Which, by the way, on the phone the other day, somebody said, JGB, we love JGB's work. And I was like, Jennifer Garvey Berger? Never heard anybody ever refer to her as JGB, but if she ever hears this, hey. I don't know if I would say she's been reduced to or elevated to an acronym, but anyway. We love her work, no matter how we refer to her. Right. But the five mindtraps she goes through, simple stories, rightness, agreement, control, and ego. Obviously, there's a lot more detail underneath these, but the one that jumps to the surface for me is this concept of simple stories. And I think the more we've learned about this and become aware of it, oh my goodness, the number of times in my own head, I make a story with a few disconnected parts and build a narrative and start to experience the emotions of what that narrative means and realize I have no idea. If what I think is true is actually true, it's embarrassing how often it happens. Yes. So, like Justin said, we're talking about leadership mindtraps from a book. We highly recommend the book by Jennifer Garvey Berger. Or JGB. Or JGB. According to something new we just found out.
The first one is called Simple Stories. Simple stories are your brain, from a true psychological standpoint, your brain uses up, the neurological brain uses up more calories than any other part of your body. So, it tries to work as efficiently as possible. It takes all of your memories, and it reduces them to what it feels are the essentials for any given situation. History passed thousands of years ago. It made sense that your brain would reduce things down to get stalked by an animal, run, need food, go to a river, go do, you know, whatever the simple things you needed, the problem is in a complex world, those details actually become extremely important, but your brain does not keep all of the details or you'd run out of space and resources and everything else. So, the problem that Justin was just talking about, that I love what you were saying is we reduce our situations to the simple details with large gaps. And then when we come into a new situation, we tend to fill them in, but we oftentimes fill them in wrong. So the way that we're perceiving what's going on is not in fact the reality of the situation. And I don't know if it's my leading mindtrap, but man, since we first read about this a couple of years ago, I see it all the time. Well, I think it's one of my leading mindtraps. I might be, I might be tied for a five-way tie with all five of them. That's fair. But, um, yeah, it's just, you don't even realize you're doing it. That's the self-awareness growth. And the scary part. Yeah. And, and you really actually need someone outside of you to ask you questions enough times to disrupt that story to go, now, why do you think that's true? Or what, how did you get to that conclusion? Because until someone makes you aware of it, that you're doing it because it's a simple story, because it's kind of in one breath that you make these assumptions and conclusions, it's really hard to notice until a ray of light begins to shine in the, the lost chambers of your soul to recognize you're doing it again. Yes. And we're so good at it. You create roles. That's right. Character roles for everybody that's involved. And somebody is the hero, almost always yourself. That's right. And somebody is the villain, whoever created the tension point for you. And then there are all these other supporting actors, and you actually give them roles and you log away the memory with everybody in their role. There's a villain, there's a hero and the ability to stop and recognize, and this is what I love what you just said, actually recognizing I've just created a story or I'm about to follow a story that was from history and I'm not actually living in the moment of the current situation. That's right. And you know, the other thing I think of is we always talk about in the work we do around interpreting behavioral data. If you can only see someone's behaviors, you are guessing at what motivates them. Well, it's really the same with any type of communication. Unless you're working from a shared dictionary, you don't know, even if someone uses a word that you're familiar with, how they're intending to use it. And interpretation becomes so much of the process of clear communication. And instead of becoming a mind reader, often it's learning how to say, hey, when you use this word, what did you mean by it? So that we're working off of an objective set of definitions here and communications actually taking place. Yes. And we have those conversations often. What do you mean by this word? And we had that conversation this morning. Hey, when you use the word system, what does it actually mean?
Okay. So, rightness. There's the mindtrap of rightness. And this one blows my mind. First time I heard about it, I was, it took me a minute to sit back and reflect and say, is that right? Seriously. I had to sit back and think, is that really true? It's that being right or the confidence that what I think is accurate is an emotion that it's not actually a logical process, the research that they've done into rightness is almost always the evidence that people use to show they are right comes from a case that they have built based on how they felt before they looked into it. So, confirmation bias is the thing that guides. So, somebody comes and says, of course, this is right. Look at all this evidence. It's almost all preconditioned on, they felt something was true. So, they went out and sought the evidence to back it up. They proof texted. They proof text. The experience. Yeah. Yes. That's exactly right. But rightness is an emotion. Right. It is not the, the actual idea of being right to any individual is something that's felt it's not an actual truth or reality, right? This is a bit embarrassing to admit, but I can remember in my mid-twenties to probably early thirties, the way decision-making happened in the organization I was a part of was I feel good about it. I feel good about it. Right. So, it was based on some emotion, intuition, gut feeling more and more. If there's not some kind of evidence or data to support these at times, complex decisions we're making and big decisions we're making in terms of impact and implication, and we're just going on gut feel the thing that you can grow your self-awareness in is by saying, okay, I'm one person with one set of experiences. Am I really wanting to base this magnitude of a decision on so few inputs? Or is there a more collective approach, research-based approach, data-driven approach to hopefully add again, without confirmation bias, but add good supporting evidence to either confirm or to challenge the initial decision and maybe cause you to rethink things at a bit of a deeper level. Yes. And we'll go through some of those. How do you actually deal with getting out of the trap here in a moment?
The next one is agreement. The mindtrap of agreement. We all love, and again, I think this goes back to, you know, how many people grew up in their villages or townships through every generation, 200 years or more ago, it was very important that people did not live alone. I mean, to live alone was certain death. Either by another individual who was seeking to take care, to take advantage of you or animals, food, resources, whatever it was to be in a tribe or to be in a community of people was extremely important. The mindtrap of agreement is all around. We don't want to shake the possibility that we may fracture the tribe or the community we're in. So we don't have to... Something feels at risk. Something feels at risk. If we allow disagreement to come in, all of a sudden what bound us together may fracture and now we don't find the confidence of being as bound together anymore. That's right. And I remember seeing this in a community of people where it felt like if you disagreed, you were just no longer a part of the community of people. And, you know, asking the question, what happened there? And then realizing that the community was so tightly wound around a common core of beliefs or places of agreement. This could be a business, this could be a social club, this could be religious, this could be any number of things that can cause people to bind around places of agreement. But if they never allow another voice to come in that doesn't agree, you have no ability to even evaluate, are we agreeing in something that's accurate? That's right. Yeah. It makes me think of two things. One, sharing with somebody specifically, they were asking questions and then I would come back with, no, that's not what I'm trying to say. And finally, they looked at me and they said, are you just looking for someone to agree with you? And I remember it was one of those breathtaking questions because I was like, no, yes, maybe. Because I wasn't even aware that I was looking to be, for lack of a better word, comforted in this particular place of tension or validated by someone that I care about agreeing with me. And then conversely, where I've been on the other side and someone comes to me with this big thing and I'll look at them and say, so how can I help? And the response is, I don't know. And you realize they weren't coming to me for input. They were coming to me for your right. Yes. You've, you've, you're seeing this rightly. Not help me move it forward. Correct. Exactly. Um, so it's interesting. I think this one comes out a lot more than we even think. I agree. Both in professional settings as well as personal settings. Yes. Yeah. I heard somebody put it. We pull close to those we agree with and we push against those we disagree with. And the problem is when you push against the people you disagree with, it means there are fewer voices that disagree. That's right. Which means you make the mindtrap even more tightly wound and you go deeper. And the problem with the mindtrap of agreement is you forfeit diversity. Right. You forfeit holistic thinking. Yep. Even systems thinking, being able to see how it's all parts of the system beyond what you can view. Everybody around you who's in the agreement tribe you're in, pays the price for it. It's not just you. That's right. That's right. Because they don't benefit from the diversity that could actually be transformational. That's right. Yeah. And how much research has come out lately about diverse teams, whether it's ethnicity, age, experience, teams that are built with a larger degree of diversity are much more effective teams. Typically, you get better ideas because those ideas get examined from a multitude of perspectives and lenses. Yes. And so they're more, there's a higher degree of rigor that's applied. That's really good.
The next mindtrap is control. The mindtrap of control, something we can probably all relate to. We try to take charge of situations because we think when we're in control, things will go better. Correct. There is some evidence to show that when people feel they are in control, that they are happier. Sure. People who feel out of control are not as happy. People who are in control or are feeling as though they're in control oftentimes have less stress, oftentimes live longer because they don't, the cortisol and everything else that are firing in the person who feels out of control, and I think there's a difference between being out of control and not fully in control. So, this mindtrap is about the mindtrap of being in control. And I think there's a way to even as a leader, delegate or release control to others that doesn't make you out of control. Right. You know, it's just not always the need to be in control. And I think too, with the growing complexity of our environments, whether that's technology driven, diversity where a multitude of voices want to be heard and spaces are making space for them to be heard, and therefore it's normalizing that it's no longer just the one person at the top kind of commanding the army, so to speak, it puts more pressure, honestly, on organizations to create environments that are empowered versus controlled from the top, because now there's things to compare to. Yes. And there's articles out there, there's books being written, there's case studies being written, and now people are informed to say there's actually research that says when we control things, we don't get the outcomes that we think we're going to get. And you're controlling me. And so now I'm mobile. I can go find a new job. Yes, that's right. And at some level, like you said, with control, we might feel less stressed, all those types of things. So, if I feel that way, then certainly you feel that way. But if I'm controlling you, I'm creating stress as I create peace of mind for me. So there's got to be a way that we have clarity of what needs to happen, some mutuality in terms of how we're going to get it done, and accountability for if things don't go according to an agreed upon outcome, we have some kind of a process to remedy that. Yes. And let's be real in the complexity every organization is experiencing today. No one leader has the ability to have all the answers. No. Therefore, for any one leader to be in control generally means I have all the answers, I have what's needed, and no leader has that. That's right. The problem with the belief and even the history that when we're in control, we're happier or there's less stress, it just feeds the mindtrap that if I stay in control, things will go better. When in fact, they may go better in one way, but they go worse for everyone around you and for the organization around you.
The last one is the mindtrap of ego. This is when we are shackled to who we are now, and therefore we can't reach to who we will be next because in reality, to transition from one stage or state to another stage or state, there's a liminal space you go through where there's a loss and then you step into that new ability or that new version of yourself, so to speak. What's interesting is often this is surrounded by not wanting to look dumb or irresponsible or our team thinks we're incompetent. And we just had a conversation about this recently talking about complexity. Stepping into complexity is an invitation to incompetence. You don't know. That's why it's complex. Yeah. You look stupid for a while. Right. And I know I'm skipping ahead a little bit here, but a little bit of a helpful scaffolding that I have found to normalize that is in a meeting to say, Hey, I might be ignorant here or I might've missed something, but could we explain X again or Y again, and just normalizing not knowing is okay. Yes. And I'll be the first one to step out there and reveal my ignorance. Yes. I think Simon Sinek has a video out there on YouTube where he talks about be the, it's not be the dumbest person in the room, but it's something to that effect of. If somebody isn't willing to be the dumbest person in the room, nobody else will be. Just go into meetings intending on, I'm going to be the dumbest one in the room. And it's going to give everybody else the opportunity to be dumb along with me. And we're actually going to go somewhere. That's right. Because you never know where that question sparks one person's creativity, sparks someone else's creativity. And now you've just had this virtuous learning cycle because you were willing to say, if nobody else is going to say it, I'm going to say, I don't understand what we're talking about. Yes, that's right. This also is the specific point that Kegan and Lahey get at in their book. Was it An Everyone culture or Immunity to Change where they talk about everybody shows up at work doing two jobs. That's An Everyone Culture. The first job is the one they were hired for. And the second job was hiding who they really are from everyone else around them because they're trying to keep a facade up. Right. And everybody, they said in that book, they spend more energy and resource, personal resource at covering the reality of who they are than they do in doing their actual job. Just let that sink in for a minute. Right. The people who work in companies spend more resources, energy, time, mental processing emotion on covering who they are not than actually being able to grow and become something else. They're spending more at that than they are the job they've been given to do. That's the mindtrap of ego. That's the danger of the mindtrap of ego. The inability to actually grow. Right. I like the statement Jennifer Garvey Berger makes in the book where she, she talks about when we try to defend our egos rather than grow and change, we end up perfectly designed for a world that happened already or a world that happened yesterday. Right. Instead of growing better able to handle the world that's coming next. That's right.
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