Articles & Publications

By Judith E. Glaser | HR.com
Published: November 10, 2015

We live in a world of moving targets.Once we get into routines we feel comfortable, and from comfort comes confidence. Yet in a world of moving targets, we need to be open to change.

Inevitably, you will encounter many changes in our work life—changes that will require energy, focus, and commitment. Some changes will throw you into I-centric response as you will feel you need to protect what you have and prevent loss. Some changes will inevitably lead to defensiveness as you try to hold on to what you have created.

Sometimes we don’t change because change means taking risks. We don’t like to fail, and we protect ourselves from looking bad. Not changing feels like a familiar haven that protects us. It makes us feel smart because we repeat what we know and we think we know it all. As we perpetuate the illusions, we fail to realize—precisely because it all feels so safe and reassuring—that we are trapped by our comfortable assumption as to what constitutes safety and success.


Neuroscience teaches us that when we get caught in ‘Addicted to Being Right’ habit pattern its’ hard to change because our brain produces high levels of dopamine – a reward neurotransmitter – which reinforces our desire to repeat that pattern over, and over and over again. While ‘addicted to being right’ is a pattern that makes you feel powerful and drives you to want to do more of it – like an alcoholic addiction - it can also push you away from others who find your ‘addiction’ off-putting, arrogant and I-centric.

When we dig deeper into the Addiction to Being Right – we see it’s built on fear: Fear of being wrong! So you fight for your point of view, needing to ‘win at all costs.’ When you perceive the world through a lens of fear, your ego drives you into habit patterns of protection and, unconsciously, you learn to incorporate defensive behavior patterns into your daily routines. Too often, you turn away from others when you are coming from protective behaviors, rather than turning to others for help in making vital changes in your life.

Protect or Connect?

Part of our brain is designed for protection, and other parts are designed for connection.
Inside the limbic brain is the amygdala, a small organ that can sense threats, helping protect our turf. The amygdala is the emotional core of the brain. Its primary role is triggering the fear response, which it does through a series of changes in brain chemistry and hormones that put the body in a state of anxiety. The limbic brain handles the emotions of anger, fear and sadness. Despite the enormous untapped potential in our brain capacity, our brains still contain organs hard-wired with guidance that reflects the multiple layers of evolution tightly packed into that small cavity in our heads. Each system speaks to the others. Each plays a role in driving behavior. And, we need to learn how the systems interplay to master our own behavior.

Transforming Your I-centric Mindsets into WE-centric Mindsets 

As we learn how to reframe or shift our focus from fear-based thinking to embracing the future with energy and compassion for how to achieve success with others, we initiate a shift in our brains that move us from pessimism to optimism—transforming habit patterns that hold us back into new patterns that catapult us into creating a Culture of WE.

Seven I-Centric Habit Patterns 

As you read the seven I-centric habit patterns, identify ones that do not serve your organization and see them as opportunities to develop WE-centric patterns. Monitor your impact. Notice how, by shifting to WE-centric patterns, you increase positive energy, focus your colleagues on creating the future, and enable greater leadership behaviors in everyone.

So, I’m the boss:
• Fear of giving up power and control; believe you need to tell people what to do. 
Impact: You do it all; limit others accountability; fail to access organizational genius.

I’ve got a case on you:
• Blame others for making mistakes; build cases and play off weaknesses; be judgmental. 
Impact: Holding grudges; resting on your laurels, limiting growth; negative workplace culture.

Giving up, giving in:

• Fear of the future; resigned to less than what you want; bailing out; hopeless; loss of will. 
Impact: Stagnation, loss of will, dissatisfaction, and frustration.

Hanging on for dear life:
• Fear of sharing; holding on to knowledge and past successes; carrying baggage. 
Impact: Destroys relationships; limits potential; limits personal power.

Know it all:
• Have all the answers; don’t listen to others’ over confidence and hubris
Impact: Assumptions and inferences; closed-down space.

I lost my voice!
• Accept authority; follow Groupthink and status quo; unwilling to rock the boat; unsure of own voice. 
Impact: Mediocrity; loss of insight and inspiration.

Taking it to heart:
• Taking others’ points of view to heart; loss of trust in instincts; negative self-talk.
Impact: Loss of spirit and self-esteem; stop engaging.

How are you showing up at work? Audit yourself to detect negative habit patterns that may be standing in the way of creating a culture that encourages mutual trust, accountability and co-creation. If you’re not creating a culture that encourages WE-centric behaviors, what can you do differently – starting today?

Mistakes of the I-centric Leader
I-centric thinking is based on a scarcity power-over mindset—thinking that . . .

• Sharing power with others is a sign of weakness
• Talking about feelings is soft; pleasing the boss is more important than pleasing the customer
• Telling people what to do is the same as communicating
• Telling people what to do will make them line up behind your vision
• Being the authority and having all the answers are the most important parts of leadership
• Telling people what you want over and over again gets your message across (when you are broadcasting “those idiots don’t get it!”)
• There is nothing you can do about territoriality (and so you do nothing about it)
• Your job as a leader is to change others and get them to buy-in
• It’s a weakness to say, “I made a mistake”; and winning means, “I win, they lose”.

Become a WE-centric Leader
Try building a healthy We-centric culture, based on a power-with mindset, in these 10 ways:

1. Share power:at meetings give the lead to your employees so they learn how to lead;
2.Talk about feelings:share and seek feedback with employees – ask how you are doing as a leader – be open to ask, get feedback and change;
3.Focus everyone on pleasing the customer—reward learning, curiosity about customer, and outward focus;
4.Share a framework for change by providing overarching challenges and direction, then ask people to develop and implement strategies for success—tap into their minds, hearts and spirits;
5.Be a leader not a dominator: redefine leadership in terms of creating a culture for success for everyone and developing yourself and others;
6. Engage people in creating the future: sponsor leadership challenges with teams of people working on vital business challenges together;
7. Break down silos: eliminate territoriality—put territorial issues on the table and find strategies to eliminate them;
8.Be the change:if you change, the organization will change—you don’t need to force people to buy-in, they will want to;
9. Be open, say when you’ve made mistakes, and turn mistakes into “key learning moments; and
10. Create win/wins wherever you go: celebrate successes for the contributions of everyone, and share the credit: “we are all in this together.”PE

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