Leadership & Self-Deception

I cannot recommend a book more than this one.

leadership and self deception


I was introduced to it at work as a book that would help me be a better leader/manager.  I’ve got a long way to go, but it has had a huge impact on my approach to people at work.  In addition, there have been several times where my wife and I have relied on its concepts in how we see, relate to, discipline, and love our 5 children.  But that’s for another entry 🙂

80:20 Rule


The Pareto principle (also known as the 80–20 rule, the law of the vital few, and the principle of factor sparsity) states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.[1][2]

Business-management consultant Joseph M. Juran suggested the principle and named it after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who observed in 1906 that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population; he developed the principle by observing that 20% of the pea pods in his garden contained 80% of the peas.[2]

So, what does this have to do with the book?

I don’t know if the ratio is really 80:20, but I’ve observed in my career and in dozens of others that how we see and treat others has more to do with our personal success than the oft-lauded ‘harder’ skill sets that are taught in MBA programs.  You look at the typical coursework of an MBA and north of 80% of it focuses on business knowledge (finance, accounting, strategy, operations, statistics, etc.)  Let’s put the 20% in the PEOPLE MANAGING, SELF-MANAGEMENT, LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT, HR categories.  Based on my experience (in healthcare management) for general managers, healthcare administrators, you spend your time and your success is determined by those weakly taught soft/people skills.

leadership and self deception

L&SD teaches, powerfully, why and how we so easily ruin important relationships.  Buy it.  Read it.  Then, like me, read it again.  Every time I do I see my warts, imperfections, and I can better repair damaged relationships that not only allow me to be more effective but also allows the other person to advance.

Can you go left?

I’m sitting here watching my son at his second basketball practice with this new club.  He’s a 3rd grader.  8 years old.  He’s the youngest kid on the court – by far.  There’s a huge difference in the physical development, skill level, and maturity (ok, maybe not maturity) between an 8 year old and a 10 or 11 year old.  It’s a 3 month club team that will compete with other 8-10 year old teams.  I think playing with guys who are better than him (and more importantly with a HS varsity basketball coach) will make him better.  So far he loves it.  Coach just yelled out, “You’re nice and young.  But you’re not THAT young.”  He expects more from my son and others than they’re capable of right now.  I love it.

What does this have to do with leading a long-term care operation?  A LOT!  Hang in there …

As I watch my son learn to play I’m reminded about my playing days.  I played basketball in high school and college – point guard.  I wasn’t very good.  In fact, I had a pretty lame shot.  But, I could dribble and pass ok and our teams did well.  As the point guard, I had to be able to dribble with both hands.  Once I discovered an opponent’s weak hand, I would force him to dribble with that weak hand all the time.  Better odds for me to force a turnover, take him out of his rhythm, and shake his confidence.  The question for every new leader is what’s my weak hand?  And, more importantly, what am I doing about it?

For some guys, their ‘left’ hand is their analytic/numbers skills.  For some it’s the ability to create and define a clear vision.  For others it’s their inability to seek their own weakness.  There’s a lengthy list of possible ‘left hands.’

Nothing is quite as painful as seeing a new leader resist admitting/discovering/dealing with his ‘left.’  It’s particularly difficult to do for a NEW leader b/c they don’t want to be perceived as weak in any way while they are trying so hard to establish their own credibility with their team and their company.  Thus, proving the timeless truth again that ‘pride cometh before the fall.’

So … what do you do?

  1. Look in the mirror.  Naked (metaphorically speaking).  Don’t pretend.  Do this exercise: write your name and signature on a piece of paper.  Next, do the same thing with your weak hand.  Can you do it?  Yes.  But … what words describe how it feels?  Awkward.  Forced.  Uncomfortable.  Just like dribbling against a full court press with my left hand.  Just like trying to analyze financials for a non-financial-type guy.  So … what part of your role do you shy away from?  What part of your role do you dread or wears you out?  Those are some pretty good clues.
  2. Talk to someone you trust and you know has pure motives towards you.  Push them to be candid.  Brutally honest.  Then, thank them sincerely for the feedback.
  3. Look at your results.
  4. Take note of things you’ve been told about yourself several times.

A great book that deals with this issue is What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There.  I highly recommend it.

Lastly, how do you get away with not being as good with your left as you are with your right?  Be 6’9″ and named Magic.

Sound Barrier

For years test pilots tested their limits to break the speed ‘limit’ of Mach 1.  One of my all-time favorite movies chronicles some of those involved in the chase to break the sound barrier, The Right Stuff.  Chuck Yeagar was the first to do it on October 14, 1947.

So what does this have to do with leadership?  Chuck explains here:

Yeager resented the idea of ‘The Right Stuff’ because it implied that he was born to be great at it.  That it was an accident if you will.  The reality for pilots is the same as anyone that has become outstanding at his field … hours and hours of hard work at improving your skills.

Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell

You can apply that fact to any endeavor.  In fact, in Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers his research revealed the “10,000 hour rule.”  In essence it states that those who are often described as ‘gifted’ because of their achievements have, in fact, become excellent because they have put in around 10,000 hours of work/practice into a specific skill set.  People like Bill Gates, The Beatles, and Robert Oppenheimer fall into this camp.

So … the question is what specific skill set are you developing as a leader?  What are the leadership traits you are developing?  Think of Kobe Bryant shooting for hours after practice has ended.  Tiger Woods changing his coach and swing AFTER becoming the world’s #1 golfer.  Chuck Yeager’s countless hours in the cockpit BEFORE the world found out about who he is.

There are those who believe we should just focus on our strengths as leaders.  That we should avoid situations, assignments, companies that force us to rely on our weaknesses.  I don’t buy it.  I’ve read it.  I don’t buy it.  Our professional environments are too fluid and unstable.  The competition changes.  The market dynamics change.  The people that we work for or that work for us change.  You get a promotion.

We have to change too.  One of the biggest mistakes a leader can make is also one of the most common … believing that what got you here will get you there.

Another compelling book that illustrates the need to change and helps you identify what areas need changing is Marshall Goldsmith’s What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. I recommend

Marshall Goldsmith’s, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

it.  After reading it, I set goals to change the following bad habits:

  1. Adding too much
  2. No, but, however
  3. telling the world how smart I am
  4. Making excuses

Unfortunately for me, those are still a work in progress.

The other reason(s) just focusing on our strengths is insufficient is taught in High Flyers, by Morgan McCall.  I took his MBA class at the University of Southern California (USC) several years ago and these principles struck a chord.

He teaches about how difficult it is to identify a set of core competencies a leader needs since very different leaders can be successful in the same organization.  Instead, he looked at what very successful leaders had in common who failed, or as he called it, ‘derailed.’   The 4 factors of derailment are below and really come into play when your professional environment changes:

Baptist Healthcare

Baptist Healthcare Journey to Excellence

In 2011, I intend to share some books with you that have given me tools, material, and ideas that I’ve found helpful in running my own team/facilities.

1st one, The Baptist Healthcare Jouren to Excellence.

From the cover’s inside flap …

“For three consecutive years, Baptist Health Care has been ranked as one of Fortune magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work for in America. All five of Baptist Health Care’s hospitals have spent multiple years in the top one percent in patient satisfaction based on survey results from the largest hospital patient database in the world. In 2004, President George W. Bush awarded the company the coveted Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. But Baptist Health Care was not always a success story.

In 1995, Al Stubblefield and his management team had to face some harsh realities: patient satisfaction rating had reached an all-time low; recent corporate reengineering efforts had damaged employee morale; and five years of merger discussions with three different organizations further devastated morale. Al’s suspicions were confirmed when an attitude survey conducted among his employees made it abundantly clear: they were not pleased with the Baptist Health Care experience. In addition to the internal conflicts, their flagship hospital was competing against two other facilities owned by national health care conglomerates with bigger budgets and deeper pockets. Outspending them was simply not possible.

This is the story about how one company beat the odds and rebounded to become a leader in its field and a pioneer in management. By creating a cultural transformation within their Baptist Health Care organization, employees became engaged and inspired to perform at the highest levels. Their positive outlook translated into a level of service and operational excellence that has become the national benchmark. Through their story, you too will learn how to transform your organization into a WOW! culture with a passion for excellence.”

There are a lot of solid principles explained in Baptist.  The one I’ll point out is using …

… 90 day plans …

consistently with everyone.  Usually when you hear the line, ‘let’s put her on a 90 day plan’ you figure the writing is on the wall and that it’s only a matter of time until ‘she’ is fired.  90 plans or 60 or 30 day plans are usually put in place because someone is underperforming and needs micromanagement to work themselves back in to your good graces or out of your operation.

Baptist flips this paradigm on its head.  They preach the practice of each manager developing a personal plan for the next 90 days.  That plan ought to be developed with input from the supervisor and shared with fellow managers.  Everyone does this as a way of approaching their work thoughtfully and systematizing a culture of accountability.

Goals.  Objectives.  Growth.  Accomplishment.  Grounds for celebration (or discipline).  Empowering.  If done right (regular review as a team), these positive 90 day plans can give you a tool to help your department heads become united and elevate your operation to more effective and efficient performance.  Check out the book and start by putting yourself on a 90 day plan.  If you combine those 90 day plans with weekly one-on-ones with your managers, you’ll see an evolution from people coming to get their job done to people coming to achieve your collective vision.

Good luck!