“Denial is a common tactic that substitutes deliberate ignorance for thoughtful planning.” – Charles Tremper
We recently completed one of the quarterly workshops that makes up part of our Dynamic Leadership Forum. One of the things we asked members to do prior to coming to the workshop was to complete a simple diagnostic on the topic of innovation. Each leader rated their organization on a series of innovation-related topics and sent their completed diagnostic to me. We reviewed them and discussed the results as part of the workshop.
The results were typical of a lot of self-assessment done by leaders. A few leaders scored themselves poorly on virtually every question. By their assessment, they weren’t good at anything. A significant number of the rest scored their businesses very highly on virtually every question. By their assessment, they’re great at everything. Very few showed some strengths, some weaknesses, and some areas that could go either way.
My point in relaying this is that many leaders struggle to honestly assess themselves & their businesses. It is possible that those individuals who scored themselves poorly on virtually everything were correct – but that’s unlikely. Every organization has areas of strength. Leaders who see nothing but gloom and doom everywhere they turn aren’t going to be effective. They will have a hard time ever convincing themselves that there are opportunities out there for their businesses to grow & be profitable. They tend to be paralyzed by fear & indecision.
Much more common though, is the second problem. It never ceases to amaze how many leaders are completely in denial about the real state of their business. I recall meeting with a construction contractor not that long ago whose business was completely falling apart. Despite the lack of income and the mounting debt, the owner refused to admit he had to make changes. He wouldn’t accept any responsibility and wouldn’t admit that some of the things he had done were at the root of the problem. What had been a profitable business had become one on life support, most likely never to recover.
Even in less extreme circumstances the same problem exists. Another organization we’ve worked with has dealt with serious flaws on its leadership team for years. On good days, members don’t talk to each other. On bad days, they say things to each other that are almost unbelievable. And yet, the leader does nothing to change the reality. That situation, and others like it, remind me of another quote:
“Once you learn how to accept the truth no matter how painful or heartbreaking it is you’ll stop wasting time on the wrong people.” – Sonya Parker
Are you being honest with yourself about your organization? Are you being honest with yourself regarding your performance as a leader? Sometimes as a leader you can get so emotionally involved that it’s hard to make an objective judgment. Who is your support system? Who do you have on your team that is willing to ask hard questions and tell difficult truths? Finding that person or group can be the difference between making necessary change and watching the walls fall down around you.