Question: Why do people fail to perceive how badly they are performing?
Answer: People tend to fall victim of what scientists call “self-serving” bias. This means that when we succeed, we congratulate ourselves. When we fail, we blame someone else. Therefore, we learn less from our failures than we could or should, and that’s why we need people to help us complete the feedback loop.
Question: You don¹t really think CXOs can let down their shields, accept feedback, and change, do you?
Answer: I sure do—I’ve worked with many execs who’ve done that, and it’s served them well. This is the kind of leader who will thrive in today’s economy and serve as the model for a new generation of CXOs. We need leadership focused on collaboration, cooperation, and candor, not isolationism and ego.?Jamie Dimon, the president and COO of JP Morgan, turned the company on a dime in the financial crisis. He knows the value of relationships and of candor. He lets his employees tell him straight out when he has a dumb idea, and they respect him all the more for it. Candor and accountability are absolutely essential if we’re to rebuild this economy and this country. And you can’t be truly candid without being willing to “let down your shield” and be vulnerable.?
Question: What are the signs that they need others to “watch their back”?
Answer: There’s lack of transparency; unwillingness to admit—and often to recognize flaws; unwillingness to ask for help; scarcity mindset resulting in knowledge and resource hoarding; and failure to act and/or take responsibility for actions. There are also a number of behavioral bad-habits that people develop. One of my favorites is what I call “The Shamer;” this is a person who tends to shame, embarrass, or humiliate others to cover up for his own fear of failure.
Question: Can we receive feedback in a purely digital way via email, tweets, Skype, video-conferencing, etc?
Answer: Sometimes it surprises me, but I’ve seen people on my Greenlight Community become incredible lifelines for each other via digital channels. Lifeline relationships involve people who have your back by being generous, vulnerable, and candid with you and hold you accountable to change. That said, I’m a big believer in making that deep connection in person during a time dedicated to relationship-building—like a date, but not a romantic one. I call that a “long slow dinner.” After that, technology is a great way to keep the relationship going.
Question: What¹s the first step to getting help?
Answer: Oprah, the queen of respected vulnerability, once said that opening up to others started with one admission to one person. And that’s exactly right—you’ve just got to take one risk and build out from there. But my recommended best practice is to start by adopting generosity as a core relationship-building trait. Unexpected generosity shakes people from their prejudices and established norms of behavior and affords you the permission to start interacting on a deeper level. Putting generosity first is what saves you from the overshare.
Question: What are the qualities of a good “buddy”?
Answer: A great lifeline relationship embraces The Four Mindsets: generosity, vulnerability, candor, and accountability. Generosity means they’re supportive, encouraging, and committed to your success. Vulnerability means they’re able to listen and share on a deep level; this also means they trust you, and you them. Candor means they’ll tell you when you have your head up your butt. Accountability means that they make sure you pull your head out.
Question: What is the process of building a team of buddies?
Answer: I recommend people start with one, and build to a group of three or four. How formal or informal your team works together is up to you, but the more formal, the greater the likelihood of sustainability.
Question: Why do people fail to change?
Answer: The fail to track progress and don’t institute accountability. Discipline isn’t easy, when we have so many demands on our time and attention. Having committed partners in that process is what can make the difference.
Question: Who would you hold up as great examples of leaders?
Answer: I already mentioned Jamie Dimon. Another great leader is Harvard professor and former CEO Bill George; he is a huge advocate of peer support and authenticity in leadership. And of course President Obama radiates authenticity and has been able to establish an unprecedented level of connection with voters, even those outside of his base.
Question: Who would you hold up as the worst examples of leaders?
Answer: Darth Vader comes to mind— but terms like “best” and “worst” is overly simplistic. We have a pantheon of American leaders heroized for their self-reliance—the John-Wayne type—but that’s a model for leadership we need to move away from. We need a new class of heroes whose leadership springs from their courage to engage and connect with others, both to end a growing American epidemic of isolation and to help foster better decision making, stronger ethics, and more positive outcomes.