Phil was approaching the end of his seventh year as the headmaster of a private school. All things considered, it had been a successful venture. The school’s census was growing each year, Phil directed a deeply dedicated faculty, and the school was paying its bills. Late one Friday afternoon, the parent of a student knocked on his office door. Phil and the parent had met, but were nothing more than casual acquaintances. What Phil thought he was to be a casual chat soon became something much more serious.
“Your school could be even bigger,” he suggested. Phil hoped he had some fresh marketing ideas and was willing to work on them. Phil was putting in sixteen hour days, seven day weeks and could not possibly consider even one more task.
“But the problem,” he challenged, “is you.”
Phil considered himself a more than capable manager and an above average public speaker. Public relations in the formal sense was not a problem, nor was the management of the school’s faculty or finances. What did the parent mean?
He explained that the general opinion in the community considered the headmaster to be aloof and unapproachable, that others wanted to associate with him and the school, but just simply were intimidated by him. Something in his manner, choice of words, posture, or whatever persuaded them he was not a person one could warm up to. Now, this was not an opinion Phil held about himself then nor does he hold it yet today. Phil is a man of conviction, purpose, and vision. But aloof? Unapproachable? No! There are a great number who know him that consider him to be much different. But they know him more than casually, most people don’t.
Phil’s situation is most certainly not unique. His perspective about himself is almost as irrelevant as is yours about yourself. A warning is due here. As vital as it is to have a grasp of our personal abilities, in the end it is not our perception that is the deciding factor. It is the perception of others that will ultimately determine how we should relate to them and whether we can relate to them profitably.
It is not what you know but what they think that matters.
If I hold my personal perspective as the only relevant, valid perspective, I will never overcome the deficit I have, we have, in relating to and positively impacting others. I need strategic partners to open a gate in the wall, let others in and let me out. I need, you need, we need others to keep us balanced, informed, and complete. Without them, we begin believing our own press releases, inflating our own importance, and over-relying on our own ideas. It is a malady common to most everyone, especially prevalent among leaders, formal or informal. I call it immaculate perception – the conviction that one’s own opinions are virtually infallible, almost divine. Simply because I hold them and thought of them, they possess virtually no possibility of being incorrect. This condition is particularly critical as we begin to add strategic associates around us.
To extend one’s reach means to go beyond your normal abilities, exceed your usual capacities, and surpass your personal limitations.
You cannot manifest skills you don’t possess, work more than several hours every day, or respond to every opportunity that presents itself. Neither your natural leadership style nor individual personality type will relate equally well to every other person or every other personality type. You have limited time, personal aptitudes, and physical and emotional strength. It would be a pity if those things which concern you did not receive at least some attention from you. But without help, you just cannot reach far enough, you cannot touch the edges of your circle of concern. So, you’ll need to deploy others. However,
Before you can extend your reach you must determine the true extent of your reach.
And I will discuss that on Thursday. See you then.