Why you need the ‘inside-out’ approach to be effective

Have you ever wondered why we always blame somebody else for our misfortune? You were delayed to work by the jam. Your boss and workmates are to blame for your inability to move on up in your career. Your subordinates are responsible for the team’s poor performance. High tax rates are the cause of your company’s lack of growth. Colonialism is to blame for Africa’s sorry state of affairs 50 years after independence and the list goes on.
Sam Kebongo
Sam Kebongo

Have you ever wondered why we always blame somebody else for our misfortune? You were delayed to work by the jam. Your boss and workmates are to blame for your inability to move on up in your career. Your subordinates are responsible for the team’s poor performance. High tax rates are the cause of your company’s lack of growth. Colonialism is to blame for Africa’s sorry state of affairs 50 years after independence and the list goes on.

Experts say that it is human nature to externalize problems. Very few of us can genuinely see themselves as the ‘bad person’ without passing blame on to someone or someplace else. This is what Aristotle called carthasis. At individual level Catharsis – refers an extreme change in emotion, occurring as the result of experiencing strong feelings (such as sorrow, fear, pity or guilt). It has been described as ‘purification’ or a ‘purging’ of such emotions and the resultant restoration, renewal, and revitalization. In other words, you do not want to live with your guilt forever. It is too much of a burden. This could explain why, in many religions, an innocent animal could be sacrificed for the sins of humans.

But good as it may be, this carthasis has its limitations. Apart from the ‘feel good’ factor that it brings and its therapeutic effects, it can ‘arrest’ and stagnate one’s development. Let’s face it in most situations, the ‘victim’ just like the ‘villain’ plays a role that leads to the grievance. Your work ethic and the way you relate to your boss and colleagues may be the real reason why you are not moving up the ladder.

This is where the inside-out approach is useful. It is basically being the change you want to see. It is starting from and by you before moving on to others. As Steven Covey eloquently puts it: “The ‘Inside-out’ approach to personal and interpersonal effectiveness means to start first with self; even more fundamentally, to start with the most inside part of self—with your paradigms, your character, and your motives. The Inside-out approach says that private victories precede public victories, that making and keeping promises to ourselves precedes making and keeping promises to others. It says that to put personality ahead of character, to try to improve relationships with others before improving ourselves”

From the foregoing, it is clear that the inside-out approach is about leadership. On a more positive note, this introspective way of looking at things is important in helping take up opportunities not only for personal growth and development, but also for group development as well. We are human and as the saying goes to err is human.  A proactive evaluation of your day of how you went about a certain activity would be a good way of ensuring personal improvement. Ask yourself; what went well?  What could have gone better? What could have been done differently? How could it have been done differently? This way  strengths are capitalized on and ‘mistakes’  are seen more as learning opportunities and you don’t spend forever banging your head on the wall over spilt milk.

At a group level, whether it is the department or section or the firm as a whole, honest but positive feedback during ‘recap sessions’ can be a very useful way of tapping into the strengths of the team and creating synergy. The team leader must take care, however, to ensure that these sessions do not degenerate into blame games that will have the negative effect of creating disharmony in the team.

Effective leaders understand the value of this approach. It means constantly examining your thinking about why you do what you do.

Sam Kebongo teaches entrepreneurship at Rwanda Tourism University College. He also is a Director at Serian Ltd that provides skills and business advisory services consultancy

sam.kebongo@gmail.com

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