Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Easy Read with a Great Point!

I just finished reading a really good little book, "Leadership and Self Deception" by the Arbinger Institute. I know, sounds really dry and boring, doesn't it? Well, it IS a business type book, after all :). Anyway, it's a quick read, in parable style (like Fish! and Cats! and the Cheese book--they all make their point by telling a little story, which takes a little of the dryness out.)
The premise of the book is that we sometimes put ourselves in a "box" when we are dealing with other people. When we are "in the box" we are thinking only of ourselves, and when we are "out of the box" we are empathizing with others and thinking of their needs--thinking of them as people.
Why I mention this is that all the time I was reading this book, I was thinking how much it applied to our personal lives as well as our professional lives. In fact, it would apply even MORE to our marriages and our relationships with our children. Even though it is a business book, most of the examples they give in it actually are marriage and child related.
It's really a simple concept, but so far reaching when it is applied. Here's the Amazon review:

Using the story/parable format so popular these days, Leadership and Self-Deception takes a novel psychological approach to leadership. It's not what you do that matters, say the authors (presumably plural--the book is credited to the esteemed Arbinger Institute), but why you do it. Latching onto the latest leadership trend won't make people follow you if your motives are selfish--people can smell a rat, even one that says it's trying to empower them. The tricky thing is, we don't know that our motivation is flawed. We deceive ourselves in subtle ways into thinking that we're doing the right thing for the right reason. We really do know what the right thing to do is, but this constant self-justification becomes such an ingrained habit that it's hard to break free of it--it's as though we're trapped in a box, the authors say.
Learning how the process of self-deception works--and how to avoid it and stay in touch with our innate sense of what's right--is at the heart of the book. We follow Tom, an old-school, by-the-book kind of guy who is a newly hired executive at Zagrum Corporation, as two senior executives show him the many ways he's "in the box," how that limits him as a leader in ways he's not aware of, and of course how to get out. This is as much a book about personal transformation as it is about leadership per se. The authors use examples from the characters' private as well as professional lives to show how self-deception skews our view of ourselves and the world and ruins our interactions with people, despite what we sincerely believe are our best intentions.

While the writing won't make John Updike lose any sleep, the story entertainingly does the job of pulling the reader in and making a potentially abstruse argument quite enjoyable. The authors have a much better ear for dialogue than is typical of the genre (the book is largely dialogue), although a certain didactic tone creeps in now and then. But ultimately it's a hopeful, even inspiring read that flows along nicely and conveys a message that more than a few managers need to hear. --Pat McGill

LOVE the line about John Updike. Haha! You can buy it at Amazon it's only about 10 bucks, and worth every cent. This is a business book that you can read and apply to ALL the relationships in your life. I know it has been an epiphany for me!

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