In my new book Blindspots: The Hidden Killer of Sales Coaching I suggest that something I call your blindspots is killing your coaching and leadership.
In this blog I want to reveal why that’s happening so you can do something about it.
The main reason for your blindspots is explained with a paradox. One of my favorite paradoxes is ‘to speed up sometimes you have to slow down’. Another one I like is ‘nothing succeeds like failure’. These are paradoxes because the two things seem to be at odds with one another. Yet, within the paradox is the deeper meaning that reveals the connection.
You’ve probably heard of Shark Tank investor Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks NBA basketball team. I heard that Cuban was a mentor of sorts to former Uber CEO and founder Travis Kalanick during Kalanick’s early days with the company. Kalanick left in 2017.
Cuban said of Kalanick, “The thing that’s impressive about Travis is he’d run through a wall for you. And the thing that’s troublesome about Travis is he’d run through a wall for you.”
How can both be true?
It’s a type of paradox I call the vice in the virtue. Kalanick has some impressive virtues, eg some traits that have been instrumental in his success. I don’t know and don’t need to know what those are to know that those same traits that helped him succeed have at times also betrayed him.
Here’s an example maybe you can relate to. Do you know someone who is very disciplined? I bet this discipline has helped this person in both his or her professional and personal life. Discipline helps someone get things done, stay focused, and accomplish things.
But take a moment to consider how being disciplined can get this person into trouble. Being disciplined usually takes having forethought and good planning skills. If taken too far however, too much planning and forethought could mean missing out on important, maybe fun things happening right in front of her. Taken too far and the disciplined person lacks valuable spontaneity that makes for a richer life.
In his thought-provoking book Range, author David Epstein tells the story of Frances Hesselbein, the former CEO of The Girl Scouts. Hesselbein had basically four professional positions her in her life, a career that spanned six decades. Each position sort of fell into her lap. She apparently never sought out any of them. This wouldn’t likely be at the top of someone’s career building advice but it certainly worked for her.
As a planner I surely can relate. My wife has taught me to ‘be open to the possibilities’, and it’s made a big difference in many aspects of my life. The saying ‘life is what happens when you’re busy planning’ has a lot of truth to it.
Discipline usually comes with sacrifice because it means saying no to something to be able to say yes to something else. The value of making sacrifices is not debatable, but again if taken too far then saying no to some things could be a bad decision.
The New York Times conservative columnist, and author David Brooks knows too well the vice in this discipline virtue. He’s had a celebrated career. He’s written several books. He’s a sought after speaker on popular news programs. He also has gone public the past few years with his personal struggles that culminated in a divorce after 27 years of marriage. He confessed to being a workaholic who said for most of his life he “prized time over people and productivity over relationships.” Sacrifice gone wild.
It takes courage to share that witness with the millions of people who know and follow him.
The question you should be asking is “what are my virtues, my impressive traits that are helping me succeed in my life?” That will be an easy, quick exercise. Your big challenge is in seeing the paradox of how those traits have and will continue to betray you. Be honest and don’t judge yourself.
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