This topic brings me back a couple of decades. I was in a lecture hall at college, and the audience was college-aged students and senior citizens who were participating in a summer program. The presenter asked the audience what we all took to be a rhetorical question, “Why do we self-sabotage?” But a quiet voice from the audience, coming from an eighty-year-old woman with a German-Jewish accent, answered out loud, “I don’t know.”
The surprise of hearing her answer out lout and sweetness of her voice have stuck with me. In the moment, I was surprised. Twenty-year-old Laura thought that by eighty, everyone would have an answer—or a better way!
Yet, here I am, at mid-life, reading books on the topic. In fact, PQ is my latest training program. We all know about IQ and EQ, and now there’s PQ, or Positive Intelligence. This measure of “mental fitness” was the subject of our book club talk this month. Janice Shack-Marquez led the discussion and shared highlights from the book Positive Intelligence by Shirzad Chamine.
At the core of Chamine’s work is the premise that, the reason why so many of our attempts at self-improvement fail, is that we sabotage ourselves.
PQ is learning to put your mind to work in service of your best interest. And to end the self-sabotage.
What kind of self-sabotage is Chamine referring to? It’s the moments you tell yourself you are not good enough to go up for promotion, the times in which you avoid a task or avoid conflict, the achievements you go after only to earn other’s acceptance or approval, etc.
These are concepts we all grapple, with, and they are certainly present for many of the leaders I work with in coaching and training programs. What is quite useful about the PQ model is the language that describes what the mind is doing. Chamine puts a little twist to his explanation of each saboteur and highlights the “lie” that each saboteur tells. For example:
The vocabulary of “saboteurs” and “lies” are incredibly useful.
When we label something, we are better able to identify it and to do something about it—as individuals and in a group setting. The simple fact that we are aware that these mind patterns exist will make us notice when we fall into the patterns, and better equipped to subvert the self-sabotage. I’ll share two examples.
First, an example from the perspective of an individual leader.
You are in a difficult situation and are trying hard to be accommodating. Relationships are important to you, so you put others first. In fact, you’re going out of your way to honor others’ preferences and perspectives. Yet no one recognizes your efforts, and you become resentful! While your initial goal was to strengthen relationships, you now are left feeling disconnected and resentful.
Here's an example in a group setting.
Teams can also display patterns and fall into habits that self-sabotage. Envision a team that is overly focused on quality. They are perfectionists, and that’s a source of pride, but it also prevents them from making decisions, and from taking action. One solution is to notice the pattern and call it out. Raising awareness will help the team be more productive and spend fewer cycles spinning on small improvements.
The book and PQ program goes into greater detail about how to build your mental fitness, but noticing is a great first step. If you are interested to learn more, check out the notes from book club and the PQ online self-assessment (free online at this link).