Have you ever been in a situation where you were listening with the filter of protecting your own self-interest? This type of behavior is toxic in any relationship. Nevertheless, this behavior is human. It shows up often, and yesterday, it showed up in me during a dicey work situation. Fortunately, I recognized the pattern in my physiological cues (shallow breath, clenched hands), interrupted the pattern by breaking routine (deep breath, relaxed brow) and was able to dynamically steer the conversation in an effective manner.
The ability to step outside of ourselves is one of the most undervalued skills in the inventory of professional competencies, but at the highest levels of leadership, it is perhaps the most valuable. It is a skill that I found difficult to internalize until I came to this meaningful realization from reading Ray Dalio’s Principles: there are two me’s.
There is a me who plays the chessboard. There is a me who is a piece on the chess board. When I default to protecting my own self-interest, I act in protection of the me that is the piece on the chessboard. I want that piece to be valued, to be used…to be safe. But what is good for the piece may not be good for the game.
“Stay at a high-level.” “Go to the balcony.” “Don’t take it personal.” “Be objective.” All variations of the same theme: there are two you’s. Play the board, not the piece.