An assumption that others see what we see, feel what we feel, and think what we think.
Backstory: When we are engrossed and attached to our point of view, we are unable to connect with others’ perspectives. If we did, we would realize how differently they see the world. Yet our bodies pick up the lack of connectivity and switch on a stronger need to persuade others we are right.
Human beings actually have a high addiction to being right. When we persuade others we are right, our dopamine level goes up. It’s like a natural high—dopamine is part of the brain’s reward center. Winning a point makes us feel good— it makes others feel bad, but we often don’t realize that.
Think current politics…
It was a gathering of the executive team of a large telecommunications company at a world-class resort in Florida. The core event for the gathering was two straight days of departmental briefings where each Executive Vice President (EVP) would have to present an update on his or her progress, and then endure a pointed inquisition by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO).
Though none of the executive team enjoyed the experience, no one would ever admit to it in public.
With the focus on competing presentations, each EVP would work for weeks to come up with something that could withstand both the harsh scrutiny of the CEO and the judgmental scrutiny of peers. It really felt less like a junket at a world-class resort and more like a forced march into the Roman Coliseum.
At this team meeting, trouble finally erupted. A core issue had been building for months. The EVP of Sales finally put forward a proposal to take over the company’s call center operations — a chronic source of concern — from the EVP of Operations. An uncomfortable silence fell over the meeting; everyone knew this was an issue, but they were hoping it would be deferred to another meeting. The CEO didn’t want the team dynamic to sour the mood for the round of golf they had planned later that day.
The heads of Sales and Operations went back and forth at each other for nearly an hour, with all the other members of the team watching. Some were relishing in seeing the conflict unfold in front of them; others were squirming in their seats because their tolerance for such conflict was low. Finally, having heard enough, the CEO waded into the argument.
Now he could have asked for more time to consider all sides, or he could have asked the two battling executives to meet in a sidebar to work out a plan to improve the call center going forward. Instead, he decided to take a side.
The CEO endorsed the proposal from the EVP of Sales. Case closed. This left the head of operations humiliated, isolated, and feeling more than a little blindsided. All of that was bad on its own, but what happened after that meeting really added fuel to the fire.
Each member of the executive team went back to his or her own departmental management team and delivered their own version of what happened, with some versions bearing little resemblance to what actually took place. Shock and dismay was expressed about the CEO’s decision to choose a winner on the spot. People started choosing sides and digging trenches. The lines were drawn — it was an all-out war.
How, you might wonder, did this team get to this point?
It was quite clear that the members of this team didn’t enjoy each other’s company, largely because they didn’t really know each other. Where there should have been a common mission or purpose, there were only silos and turf wars. The team’s planning processes were flawed and decision-making relied solely on the whims of the CEO.
And as for the CEO, here was a team leader who was not managing team dynamics to get the best synergy and outcomes from his executives.
This group may have called itself “the executive team,” but there was nothing team-like about the way in which it functioned. Why, because teams are made up of people and we forget just amazingly individual we are, especially when we’re in groups!
So consider, what are some blind spots around your thinking and others’ that you might not have been aware of OR that you were possibly aware of but happy to ignore thinking it might be small?