Missing the truth

truthMissing the truth is maybe our default experience without us knowing it. Often, as a business coach, I am in a position to listen to both sides of the story. The bosses tell me their story and the employees tell the same story from their side and it is very seldom the same story. Both are talking about optimizing performance, unfortunately, both are missing it.

As humans our brains are hardwired to make sense of our world. The most common tactic we use in this process of sense making is story telling. We weave events and experiences into a sensible and logic string of  memory in order to make sense of our place in this world.

The problem is that our memory is fallible. According to some of the latest neuroscience findings, what we call memory, is in fact the process of memorizing. We do not remember what happened, as we recall a event or experience, we are re-creating that event or experience as we remember it. “Memory is never a precise duplicate of the original… it is a continuing act of creation,” researcher Rosalind Cartwright says.

Oliver Sacks concludes: “We, as human beings, are landed with memory systems that have fallibilities, frailties, and imperfections — but also great flexibility and creativity. Confusion over sources or indifference to them can be a paradoxical strength: if we could tag the sources of all our knowledge, we would be overwhelmed with often irrelevant information.

To make this process even more interesting (and one more step  in missing the truth), is the experience of cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance arises when you attempt to hold two conflicting beliefs/attitudes/ideas/opinions at the same time.

As humans, our ego-driven security system, builds our self concept thinking of ourselves as basically good. Yes, we have our flaws, but we try our best and in the end we believe we see the world realistically, and act rationally.

When our own thoughts and behaviors, or the accusation of another, challenges our cherished self-concept, we experience what is called cognitive dissonance – a form of mental discomfort and tension.

When this happens and our behavior or others accusations threatens our self-concept, our ego automatically goes into hyper-defense mode, and begins issuing self-justifications designed to protect itself. We start telling our stories to ourselves and others in such a way that the inner tension and discomfort is released. We re-creating events in such a way that there can be harmony in our inner world.  And we do this without thinking about it. And so we keep on missing the truth.

Observing this process is rather fascinating. Improving the same process, well, this asks for a rather high level of maturity and self-awareness. The how is a bit vague to me. Any suggestions?



Never look for a boss, always look for a client

Sean’s dad gave him this advice: “Never look for a boss, always look for a client.”

I try and communicate the same message to my clients and young people who ask for career advice. In today’s economy, for you to be successful, view your career as your own business.

I am not saying everybody has to start their own small business. I am referring to the way we think about work.

Starting your own business is a dream a lot of people have. If the market is open for your idea, go for it! And if I may share from my experience, it is enjoyable en challenging at the same time. So before you take the plunge, make sure you do your homework properly. Ask advice, write a proper business plan yourself (if you ask someone to write it for you, make sure you are involved every step of the way), and get get a business coach. It is worth the investment. Also know that it takes up to 5 years to start up a business, so have patience. It is worth it.

The advice Sean’s dad gave has more to it though. Like I said, it speaks to the way we think about work. It asks us to change our mental maps from seeing work as a necessary evil, something we do to pay our bills, to seeing our abilities, energy and knowledge as a product we sell to our employer. Our boss or the organization we work for becomes our client. And in the competitive world we live in, good client service plays a major role in sustainable success.

It ask that we start thinking like entrepreneurs about our work, creating the habit of asking “Where is the biggest need and how can I address is?” And of course, taking the initiative to act on the answers we get.

With this mentality, we be come a major contributor, adding value to the organization. We move our salary from the expense side of the cash flow statement tot the asset side. We become the dreamed of and elusive engaged employee that all business owners look for.

And when you choose to go on your own, this mentality will help you succeed as a business owner as well.