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Note: This resource is part of our Moving the Bar in Your Career and Your Life, a unique approach to professional development series: Optimizing Employee Performance. Click here to see the entire series.

Intrigued by the title for some time, this book came highly recommended by my colleague Pete Cracovaner of Pinnacle Resource Group. The only leadership book that I am aware of with this particular focus, the authors write that self-deception "determines one’s experience in every aspect of life." That’s quite a contention!

Written as a parable, this book explores how we all view and treat others as objects to help us accomplish our goals (termed being "in the box") as opposed to viewing others as people, with their own hopes and dreams (being "out of the box"). Being "in the box" limits our ability to reach our full potential and betrays the basic obligation that we each have to see others as they are, as people. "Self-betrayal", an act that is contrary to what our sense is of what is appropriate and how we should be toward others, is the basis of self-deception. And when we are self-deceived, we 1) inflate others’ faults, 2) inflate our own virtue, 3) inflate the value of things that justify our self-betrayal, and 4) blame others. "Self-betrayal is the germ that creates the disease of self-deception."

When we are "in the box," we see things in terms of the self-justifying images that we’ve created. We see people who challenge these images as threats and those who reinforce these images as allies. But regardless, we view others merely as objects, not as people. When applying these concepts to the workplace, it must be in the context of the point of all our efforts at work: to achieve results. Simply, we can’t truly focus on results if we are "in the box" and focused on ourselves…we’re too busy trying to get only our own results, not accomplishing what’s best for the organization as a whole. Problems with being "in the box" include: lack of commitment, conflict, stress, poor teamwork, lack of trust, lack of accountability, and communication issues.

To get out of the box, we should do our best to help others succeed and achieve results, whether personally or professionally. Success as a leader depends on being free of self-betrayal and creating an environment of openness, trust and teamwork, where people work hard for the collective good, not individual accomplishments. The authors write that: "We can’t really achieve results like we otherwise could if we’re in the box." So, how often are you "in the box" toward others and how can you live "out of the box" more consistently?