Leaders: Get Out of Your Own Box

Nowadays ‘thinking outside the box’ is cliché. We’ve heard it so much we have either forgotten what the idea was really about or written it off.

The problem is that psychologists tell us we all have these personal paradigms that drive our reaction and interaction with culture and society. The older we get, the more “Set in our ways” we become. This is the perfect example of operating from within a very narrow box.

In front of a large audience one day, I asked two volunteers to step on stage. I had arranged two large shipping boxes, something as large as the crates that refrigerators come in. The two volunteers were to step inside each box (doors had been cut to ease the access). Then I asked them to proceed with talking to one another as though they had just met, introducing themselves to one another and talking like this was a networking event.

They couldn’t do it very well. They were talking over each other, interrupting, missing words and phrases from the other person. Clearly their communication was suffering. With little to no connection, their meeting was turning out to be a disaster.

They were then told to exit the box; step outside and face each other. Now resume the effort. Well, of course, things improved quickly.

This was a graphic display of the problems with operating from inside our personal paradigms. Whatever bias, value structure, prejudice, or judgment you have against the world, staying inside your box will prohibit you from adequately connecting with others.

By staying inside those boxes we filter everything being heard and received. Often that filtering corrupts the message or the intent of the sender.

As you meet a new person, strive to understand their “box” first. Forget your bad ideas and limited scope. Hear them genuinely and seek first to understand (a la Steven Covey). You just cannot build a high trust relationship without it. This fits for hiring managers, sales leads, new friends, and other personal relationships.

Give yourself a test. Try this for just one full week. Make a concerted effort to unfilter everything you receive from those around you. Don’t jump to any assumptions or conclusions. If you’ve already ‘tagged’ a person, give them the grace to erase that tag. See and hear them for what they might really be saying.

See the amazing things that can happen. Post back here and let me know what you find.

If you would like to explore more ideas for growing your own leadership influence, click the link below to schedule a short, but free call.

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