The Reality Gap

The higher you go in your organization the greater the risk that you will lose touch with your people. That risk has less to do with you as a leader than it has to do with with your followers. 

Positions at or near the top of an organization come with power or at least the perception of power. The people at lower levels of an organization believe that the people “at the top” have substantial control over their jobs and livelihoods. That belief drives a respect for those people at the top. I say respect but the truth is that far too often it’s not really respect, it’s fear and intimidation. 

To be clear, that fear is not necessarily driven by anything the leader says or does, it is driven by the insecurities of the people they lead. 

The best leaders are aware of those common insecurities and the behaviors they drive. One of the most common behaviors is a lack of candor. Most people are careful with the information they share with leaders at high levels of an organization. They have no interest in even appearing to “rock the boat.” 

So they withhold information that their leaders need to lead effectively. That can easily create a reality gap for the leader.

You may think you’ve done nothing to cause your people to shield you from the truth and you may be correct. But it’s not just you they shield from the truth, it’s your position. It’s kinda like having a meeting and telling people to forget you’re the boss…they can’t and won’t forget, they will always be leery about sharing real world information. 

In the worst cases they will either tell you only what they think you want to hear or they will outright lie. 

Here’s what makes this challenge so difficult to overcome: most leaders do not believe that a reality gap exists. They think they are “plugged in” to the pulse of their organization and certainly to some extent they are. The question is to what extent. A very large percentage of leaders are far less connected than they think. 

That’s why every leader, let me repeat, every leader needs at least one truth teller. Their truth teller is part coach, part confidant, and secure enough to risk the consequences of not withholding the information their leader needs. 

If you’re at or near the top of your organization then you need access to accurate, timely information. To ensure you have it you must find the people within your organization who have the confidence to tell you what’s what. 

Search out those people or that person and stay connected to them; let them be a second set of eyes and ears for you. Use them to verify the reality that you think you know. As a leader you can never have too much information. More and better information means a smaller reality gap and when it comes to gaps small is definitely big!

 

How to Find Courage

I had the opportunity this morning to present to a group of sales professionals. During one part of the presentation I made the comment that fear holds us back. Oftentimes when we need to do something and we can’t make ourselves do it it’s because fear gets in the way. 

I kind of let that thought hang and moved on but it got me to thinking; how do we get past our fear to do the things we need to do in order to succeed. 

I know some of the people in that group read this blog so for those of you who do, feel free to pass this along. For everyone else, I think you’ll find this useful too. I think that because fear is a major obstacle for anyone looking for success, so major in fact that I’m tempted to say THE major obstacle.

We don’t need to look very far to find courage; it’s already within us, all of us. It’s deeper in some people than others but to find success we all simply need to bring it to the surface. Here’s a few ideas on how we might do that:

Push Yourself. Do something, even if it’s small, to push yourself outside your comfort zone every single day. Think differently, admit you could be wrong. Give someone you think you don’t like a second chance. Look at a situation from another person’s point of view.

Trust Yourself. Surround yourself with people who care about you and have your best interests in mind. Your self-confidence and your self-value will improve. If you struggle to believe that “you can do it” then it’s vitally important that you have people near you who will remind you that you can. Stay away from people who would tear you down, they almost certainly do not have your best interests in mind.

Set Meaningful Goals. Make small easily accomplished goals each day. Once that becomes a habit make the goals a little more challenging. Once you teach yourself just how much you can accomplish fear tends to head for the exit. Once it’s out of you it’s very difficult for it to find it’s way back in. 

Control YOUR Attitude. The fastest way to improve your life is to improve your attitude. You can’t control every circumstance of your life but you can control your attitude everyday. A positive attitude is the enemy of fear. When you let other people and events impact your attitude you also let fear inside your head. A positive attitude reminds you how good you can be, it reminds you what you have already accomplished. A positive attitude will help you remember that you’ve overcome fear in the past and can do it again.

Don’t Procrastinate. The best time to take on a difficult task is the first chance you get. Fear doesn’t shrink by pretending it doesn’t exist. Attack it, prove it wrong. Do the most fearful thing you have to do first and the rest of your tasks become easier. When in doubt, DO IT NOW!

Courage is not the absence of fear, courage is doing something, moving forward, making progress, regardless of the fear. Take baby steps, you don’t have to eliminate all fear in a day, you just have to eliminate some fear everyday. 

Go for it!