Who Will Warn/Correct You When You Are About to Make a Big Whopping Mistake? – Insight from Goleman’s Focus (and a thought about Brian Williams)

FocusThere’s an intriguing relationship between self-awareness and power… But the higher someone’s position in an organization, the bigger the gap. Self-awareness seems to diminish with promotions up the organization’s ladder.
Daniel Goleman, Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence


So, this may be the question: if you are Brian Williams, making millions a year, anchoring (and serving as Managing Editor – in otherBrian Williams words, you are your own primary boss), the most watched national nightly news broadcast, and you are on the verge of blowing it, who is going to have the position, and the guts, to call you on it? My guess is no one. And if you are Brian Williams, and someone actually does try to call you on it, you may think you are above such correctives from others.

These thoughts are just a guess… But there is little doubt about this — I’m willing to bet that Brian Williams is now wishing that he had not made the mistakes he made. (And, yes, I think that the way he told his stories, it was not just “dumb,” but also a failure of character and integrity)…

As I have thought about the Brian Williams’ story/situation, I’ve gone back to a book by Daniel Goleman, known primarily for his work on Emotional Intelligence. In Focus:  The Hidden Driver of Excellence, he has a stark warning for those “at the top.” They have to become very good at self-correction, because there are very few people with the access and the guts and the position to correct from “outside.” See the quote above. And here’s how I worded it in one of my takeaways (read my full list of takeaways in this post, Be Self-Aware; Practice Empathy; And Focus! – Here are My Takeaways from Focus by Daniel Goleman. This was takeaway #3 from my synopsis of the book:

Since top leaders may not listen to other people about their own deficiencies, they have to be incredibly self-aware to spot their deficiencies and work on them themselves.

And with such “self-awareness” comes the responsibility to do some serious self-correcting. Because, no matter who you are, you will make mistakes, and someone needs to help you avoid such mistakes, and keep such mistakes to a minimum.

And, then, I got to thinking some more… This is not just a problem for those “at the top.” It is a growing problem for a growing number of people – the people who are “on their own.” People who work alone, “independent contractors, self-employed” folks, piecing together a living… People like me.

In other words, the more likely that that there is not someone who serves as your correcting observer, the more likely that you will need to be incredibly good at self-correction. Because, let me say it again, you will make mistakes; sometimes, big whopping mistakes.

I’ve got a hunch that Brian Williams will not be the last “big player” to make a bad mistake along the way. So among those soft skills we all hear so much about, maybe the skill of “self-correcting” should move up to the top of the list.


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