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Replacing Ego with Reality to Get Results

By John P. (Pat) Philbin, Ph.D., PMP

President & CEO

After reading No Ego (2017) by Cy Wakeman, which I commented on back in October 2021 in The Problem with Egos, I was drawn to her “no-nonsense” approach to getting things done. So, it should come as no surprise that her book, Reality-Based Leadership (2010), was prescient in its principles and simplicity to producing better results.

According to Brian Tracy, “Leaders think and talk about the solutions. Followers think and talk about the problems.” How we interpret things often frames how we react to them. Cy makes an extraordinary case that we are the “source of [our] suffering.”

As leaders, we have a responsibility to lead and produce results. If we allow egos into the equation, we fail to “serve, lead, or learn.” Reality-Based Leadership argues convincingly that “most of the drama in our lives is self-created.” In general, we must avoid allowing emotion, which may not be based in reality, to govern action.

Confirmatory bias is part of the human condition that we must confront. Critical thinking challenges us to consider the facts as they are based on a disciplined, interdisciplinary approach—not as how we may want them. As Cy reminds us, “[our] world is a projection of [us].” In other words, “believing is seeing” as we have come to understand from the research.

Although people want to know you care before they care what you know—a principle that emerged from Risk Communication, leaders must be empathetic while establishing the conditions for effective decision-making and action.

Cy argues that leaders must “respond to the facts, not to the story,” which requires clarifying what is believed “in the moment,” and what is known as “fact.” Such reflection helps leaders challenge their assumptions prior to responding, and often requires giving “others the benefit of the doubt.” Cy provides some terrific examples of how to avoid defensive thinking while actively listening in order to focus on solutions.

Like parenting, I found her observation about a “secret all Reality-Based Leaders know: The more you provide, the more people will need, and the less satisfied they will be with what you offer.” In other words, we over manage. Leadership requires allowing others the space to make decisions and experience consequences with the idea that they will learn more and faster.

How many times do others approach us with issues “in blaming mode” seeking a referee rather than “owning” the issue and offering solutions? Cy reminds us that “empowerment without accountability is chaos.” So, how do we get better results? She has some simple approaches:

· Rather than seeking to enlist support from everyone in an effort, identify and “work with the willing

· Avoid those who are in “a chronic state of resistance

· “Compensate value, not effort

· Radical candor with specific feedback addresses “the root cause of all employee issues

· Not all opinions are equal

· “It is nearly always action—not opinion—that adds the most value

· “Ambiguity is the source of all conflict

· “Delegation is vital to good leadership

· “Trust is a choice

Best regards and be well,



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