Getting Out of “The Box”
Book Review: Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box, By Arbinger Institute
By: Ayla Khosroshahi
I recommend the Arbinger Institute books to everyone, all the time. I can’t help it, they can be applied anywhere. They are meant to make you a better leader, but really they make you a better human. Every time I (re)read them, I learn more. Last month, Yashar reviewed Anatomy of Peace, this month I’m looking at Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box. There are so many useful and applicable tools in these books, however for this resource spotlight I am highlighting two main questions: What is “the box”? How do we get out of “the box”?
What is “the box”?
“The box” is a distorted mindset. It’s a way of thinking, a way of seeing yourself, and others. When you see things as black and white, right and wrong – you are in “the box”. You are reactive and closed off. There is no space for perspective change or insight. “The box” is a tight, bitter, insecure, and lonely place.
“What I need most when I am in the box is to feel justified.” p. 101
Self-justification keeps you in “the box”, ultimately, as the book describes, it’s an act of self-deception and betrayal. You use others faults for justification for your own misbehavior. Or even worse, you begin to fabricate faults to justify your own misbehavior. If people challenge this image then they become threats and blameworthy. When you are in “the box” you can’t connect to your inner wisdom, be truly generous, or be a transformational leader.
How to get out of “the box”?
By changing your inward (I only matter) mindset to an outward (we are in this together) mindset you are getting out of “the box”. Being out of “the box” means others matter as I matter, and more importantly we matter together – our collective success and well-being. The perspective shift empowers teamwork and productivity. The focus becomes on how best to move ahead, instead of how to be right.
“Be focused on achieving a result, rather than on being justified.” p. 171
Here are some additional MINDSHIFT tools to help you get out of “the box”:
- Cues. Get to know your personal “I’m in the box” signs. These are your cues. Like feeling ‘butterflies’ in your stomach is a cue that you are nervous. What happens when you are in “the box”? Do you get closed off and super quiet? Anxious? Angry? Bitter? Bringing awareness to your change in mood/thoughts/feelings is your first step – this is your cue that you are in “the box”.
- Acceptance. When you are cued that you are in “the box”, acknowledge it. In other words, admit to yourself that you are not at your best and that your mindset is distorted – instead of finding a way to justify it.
- MINDSHIFT. Once you are aware, and have acknowledge it, start doing the work to get yourself out of “the box”.
“Your influence and success will depend on being out of the box.” p. 174
Take a moment to check your openness for change, and whether you are truly looking for solutions or if you are looking to be right. Are you responsive or reactive? Do you see your peers and loved ones as having equal value and importance as yourself? Are you approaching your conflicts with an open and generous mind? I recommend reading this book and applying it to your relationships, conversations, and especially your thoughts – it will definitely help you do better by thinking better!