When You Know Best

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“Character is what happens when life scratches itself onto your soul.”

from It’s Not About You by Bob Burg and John David Mann

It’s Not About You is a compelling story that doesn’t just talk about the kind of leadership that resonates in today’s world; it shows you what it looks like in action.  It is filled with simple yet rich distinctions and brings the wisdom to life through a well crafted story.

For me the story demonstrates the power of letting go of what we want for ourselves, and even what we want for others, and stepping into the world of what others want for themselves.  Ultimately that is the source of our influence.

Letting go of thinking we do know or should know what others need and what is right for them is perhaps one of the biggest challenges leaders face today, especially those who have risen through the ranks in more traditional organizations.

Ultimately our true source of power may come from recognizing, despite our best attempts, we cannot control what others think or believe, nor can we control their choices.  In the end the main character demonstrates the antithesis of what I would call the “used car salesman”.  It is his journey to this realization that makes this book full of insight into ourselves.

When I say “used car salesman” there is a reason it conjures up visions, and for many of us memories, of being manipulated.  We all know that feeling of having to resist the convincing and cajoling behavior.  It puts us on gaurd.  Even when the logic makes perfect sense, we somehow have that sixth sense they are out to take rather than give and we must protect ourselves.

It is easy to unwittingly become our own version of the “used car salesman” when we are focused on ourselves and what we think.  We can have the best of intentions, have all the facts, and feel confident we know what is right.  Our content and presentation may be flawless.  We may even convince some by our flash and/or eloquence.  Yet even if the choice in the moment is a “yes”, that “yes” probably won’t last in today’s world.

This book was a potent reminder of the potential cost of an “I know best” attitude when it comes to relationships.  Embracing the notion that “it’s not about you” is simple, but certainly not easy.  I am appreciative of the wisdom John David Mann and Bob Burg share in this book to help me stay the course despite the all too human tendency to focus on myself.

So when you find yourself thinking you know best, keep in mind it might be costing you more than you think.


Enter A Comment

Bob Burg   |   15 November 2011   |   Reply

Susan, thank you for your extremely kind and thoughtful post about John David Mann’s and my book. I’m honored to know you found it to be of value, and felt the message of value enough to share it with your readers. Thank so much!! – Bob

Susan Mazza   |   16 November 2011   |   Reply

Appreciate you sharing your book with me and stopping by her Bob. I look forward to your next book!

Dion Johnson   |   23 November 2011   |   Reply

Wow! Just catching up with this post. Its another great one Susan. The big point that it raises for me is how important it is that as leaders we get to know what our ‘followers’ want, who they are, how they are motivated and by what. That Leadership is a relational win win, an exchange. You help me with my mission, and I help you with yours. This is a stark contradiction to traditional leadership when there is often disproporionate emphasis on the follower serving the leader.

I’ve got a lot of thoughts on this and how I have experience the “This is not about you” aspect of leadership in my role as a midwife, leading women through pregnancy and childbirth.
As midwives, we are used to be seen as the expert, I have often marvelled at how complicit and yielding women become to anything I ask or suggest; how readily they become
“the patient”.
I’ve noticed the effort and adjustment it requires, the extra work the leader must put in and the potential for conflict that rises when the intention is to acknowledge the ‘expertise’ of the woman. After all, it’s her body, her baby, her life…
I’ve also noticed that when we make those challenging adjustments. a partnership ensues and the outcome is potentially so much richer for eveyone concerned, even when things don’t go as planned.

Amber-Lee (@girlygrizzly)   |   06 January 2012   |   Reply

I am so far behind…still. On Monday, although, I still had over 600 emails, many of which are posts I have subscribed to.

I could have (and believe me, I have thought it a few times) to just dump the whole lot… but what would I miss?

This, for one.

I am down to 116 emails to read, delete or respond to, file, bla, bla, bla… but I will read this book. Thank you.
please know I am going to do better about commenting this year as well as responding to comments!!

Susan Mazza   |   06 January 2012   |   Reply

Hi Amber-Lee. That is a whole lot of catching up to do – happy you didn’t skip over this post (although that would certainly be understandable!) because I think you will really enjoy this book.