Book Review: Leadership and Self-Deception by The Arbinger Institute

AKA how to use ‘soft skills’ effectively!

A great book on leadership whether you lead a company, organization, home or yourself.

In a lot of the leadership development training that I support we talk about the behaviours of good leaders – things that are key to building good interpersonal relationships. Often there is discussion amongst the group about the behaviours of good interpersonal communication or ‘soft skills’ as some people describe them. Suggestions include:

  • ask your staff how they are, how was their weekend or holiday and/or how is your family
  • make eye contact when talking to them
  • ask them how they feel
  • listen more, talk less
  • ask them what they think
  • give positive feedback to them on their work or a recent accomplishment

These are all good behaviours.

And one of the main theories of the book is that we can sense how people feel about us – and it’s to that feeling that we respond. Conversely others can sense how you feel about them and they respond to you based on that feeling you have/how you regard them.

So if you behave as outlined above with a feeling of resentment or not caring toward your employee/colleague they will feel as if you genuinely don’t care and they will respond accordingly, usually with little engagement or enthusiasm.

So the Arbinger Institute says you first need to be genuinely interested in your employee (not interested in their opinion or impression of you) before you try to behave your way into building good relationships.

Personally, I’ve had the experience where I’ve been distracted or even just focussed on my own agenda and I’ve asked a loved one about their day and gotten a cold, terse response. To which I initially think ‘hey, why the attitude? I’m asking about you!’ In my heart I know I wasn’t focused truly on them so shouldn’t have been surprised by the response. When I place my interest and attention on them, even for a minute with care and connection, they feel it and respond similarly hence building the relationship.

Leaders (people) who genuinely feel caring or interested in others can get away with clumsy interpersonal behaviours because the other person feels the positive intention.

What feeling towards others are you actually feeling when you interact with them?