03 Nov

Bullying or wearing blinkers?

If you were in New Zealand in the 80s then you may recall the “unfortunate experiment” which cast a very dark shadow over the National Women’s Hospital at that time. Last week I attended an incredibly inspirational talk by Dr Ron Jones, author of Doctors in Denial: The forgotten women of the unfortunate experiment, which spoke about the doctors and women involved. It is a painful reminder of what happens when people in power allow their egos to get in the way of sound judgement and good decision making. This “experiment” caused thousands of women to lose their lives from cancer that could have been cured. Dr Jones was one of the very few whistle blowers in this story and it is his mission in life, aside from a tribute to the women who passed away in this experiment, to educate New Zealanders about the truth of this outrageous and very preventable disaster.
Dr Jones’ story highlighted a number of characters who played significant roles in this experiment and at some point it sounded more like a horror fairytale than a true event. As Dr Jones spoke I realised that the characters he referred to in this story are also ones that we are all very familiar with and may engage with in our work and personal lives on an ongoing basis. Two main characters really stood out for me.
1) The “EGO character” – Dr Jones spoke of two main individuals in his story who were driving this experiment from the beginning. He called them bullies. Bullies with big egos are probably the most dangerous and destructive character trait I can think of. It doesn’t matter how wrong these people are, they will always dig their heels in and never admit failure. For these people self-preservation will always trump the will to be honest and prevent others from suffering.
2) The “BLINKERS character” – The blinker wearers in Dr Jones’ story, were highly qualified, world renowned and respected individuals at the peak of their careers. They did absolutely nothing, except turn a blind eye to what was going on. By not getting involved they allowed the bullies to take over.
So what can we learn from this horrific story? What can we do to prevent this type of behaviour from sneaking into our lives?
One thing that I have learned over the years, is that it is not about trying to control other people’s behaviours. It’s all about being aware of our own behaviours and controlling how we portray ourselves in the world. Learning from these stereotypical character traits will not just help us become better human beings, but by having a strong self-awareness it will positively influence our immediate environment and the people around us. Lead by example and keep the following in mind.
1) No one is perfect, we all make mistakes. Learn to be humble.
2) Never let your ego get in the way and cause you to develop tunnel vision.
3) It’s okay to be wrong and to admit your failure.
4) Use your voice and stand up against bullies when others cannot.
5) Leaders are responsible and accountable for their teams.
To be safe, how can we double-check that we are not turning into bullies or blinkers? We can learn to develop “self-checking-in” systems. Just like jumping on a scale to check on our weight, we can jump on the self-awareness scale and actively check behaviours and habits by asking ourselves questions, or if need be, ask a trusted colleague or friend to provide some honest feedback.
1) Did I listen to the other party?
2) The decisions that I am making, do they align to my business values?
3) Am I respectful in my approach?
4) Do I display ethical behaviour?
5) Will the decision that I am making benefit my business or just my personal needs and desires?
 These lessons are not new and we hear these statements all the time, but how often do you really apply these lessons? Perhaps today is a good time to start.
05 Jul

You don’t know it all

In the article Screw Mastery, Hannah Rosin writes about a time in her career were she was in a position of all-knowing and mastery. She was successful and had everything going for her. Then she chose to give it all up and become a novice in an industry that she knew nothing about.

These days this type of shift is not uncommon. Some people are in continuous transition, moving jobs, careers, countries and even relationships. People are more curious, less risk- averse and more resourceful. They also view the world differently. They are more open to new concepts and ideas. Not afraid of constructive feedback or failure.

Here’s the big question. If you are in the position of all-knowing, do you have the same openness to alternative  views, constructive feedback and opinions from your fellow colleagues and employees or are you stuck in your “mastery”ways? Are your blinkers too tight causing you to experience tunnel vision?

As a business owner or manager you are often expected, or it is assumed, that you know everything about your business. And you probably do. However, just because you know everything, does that mean you should not consider alternative ways of achieving business goals?

How do you view the opinions of your team or the suggestions they put forward? Are you genuinely open to new ideas, or do you just listen and humour them and then do it your own way anyway?

The lesson here is if you continuously ignore your team’s suggestions, opinions and ideas you will lose them. Good employees don’t want to be “yes-men” or “yes-women”, they want to see that they can add true value into the business. They want to make a difference.

Mastery is a great achievement and anyone who achieves it in their profession should be commended, but remember this, mastery can also be your downfall. Always be open to new ideas and concepts. Remain curious.