Here It Is — The Number One Barrier to Personal Success at Work (and in Life)
Let’s say that you are not as effective as you would like to be. It does not matter what your deficiency is, but let’s say that you know what your area of weakness, need, deficiency is. If you know where you are weak, if you know what you need to work on, then consider yourself ahead of the pack. Way ahead. Because, I am now convinced that I know the number one problem that can derail you on your path to success. Here’s that number one problem:
A lack of awareness of your weak areas – your ignorance, your incompetence, your growth areas.
Here’s a quote from Peter Senge that points this out rather vividly: “People with a high level of personal mastery are acutely aware of their ignorance, their incompetence, and their growth areas.” And I wrote along a similar vein in this blog post, Michael Jordan, Defensive All-Star — A Business Lesson For Us All, describing how Michael Jordan recognized his defensive weaknesses, and how he tackled that challenge with such focus and resolve. After describing how he developed great defensive skills, I asked: But what should you add?
So what prompted this blog post, and spurred me on to state the “number one problem” with such certainty? It was this passage in the book, Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman.
Perhaps one of our biggest surprises was realizing how few Diminishers understood the respective impact they were having in others. Most of the Diminishers had gown up praised for their personal intelligence and had moved up the management ranks on account of personal – and often intellectual – merit. When they became the “boss,” they assumed it was their job to be the smartest and to manage a set of “subordinates.” …As one executive put it, “When I read your findings, I realized that I have been living in Diminisher land so long that I have gone native.”
In other words, a Diminisher does not know that he or she is a Diminisher.
I think if I had a chance to visit with Liz Wiseman, I would ask her, “why in the world were you surprised?” Because, if we have learned anything by now, it ought to be this – very, very few people know their own weakness(es) well enough to even identify and acknowledge such weakness, much less to develop a strategy and then follow that strategy to actually make the needed changes.
If you want another word for this, you can call it laziness, thinking of the word the way Scott Peck used it. Laziness is not “doing nothing,” it is “avoiding what you need to focus on” (my paraphrase of his idea, as I remember it, from his book The Road Less Traveled).
Think of the beginning of the 12 Steps, the one that prompts this introduction, “Hello, my name is ___, and I am an alcoholic.” You know, the first step: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable..
Maybe we need many more groups, which all begin with a parallel “first step,” like:
I admitted I was a Diminisher – and this derailed me on my path to success.
I admitted I was a:
poor team player
poor time manager
poor money manager
poor encourager of others…
The list could be rather long. But the solution for any and every weakness/deficiency goes back to that first step: I saw my weakness/deficiency, I acknowledged my weakness/deficiency, and then, and only then, could I design a path to overcome that weakness/deficiency.
To Wiseman, she focuses on a specific failure: the failure to become a leader who is a Multiplier. And that failure is exacerbated by an individual’s own blindness to his or her own tendency to be a Diminisher.
Let me quote again Senge’s wisdom: “People with a high level of personal mastery are acutely aware of their ignorance, their incompetence, and their growth areas.”
Do you know yours? If you do, you are ahead of the pack – now get to work on it.
If you don’t know yours, then discovering it, identifying it, is definitely the new item on your to do list!
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