How Not To Be The CIO That Killed The Donkey
Have you ever wondered why your peers, CFO and CEO don’t acknowledge you as a strong leader despite your efforts to please them? If so, then here is an exciting fable from the East:
Once upon a time, a gardener and his son took their donkey to sell at the nearby market. The road was long, the sun was hot, and they were sweating heavily. As they were walking by the donkey’s side, a villager pointed at them and said, “You idiots, what’s the point of having a donkey but to ride upon?” So the elder looked at his boy and said, “He is right!” and put him on the donkey, and they went on their way.
Next, an old man passed them by and said, “Alas, gone those days the elderly were respected! What a heartless youngster! He lets his father walk while he rides.” Ashamed of his ignorance, the boy said, “He is right!” and jumped off the donkey and insisted that his father rides upon the donkey.
Soon, they met a group of women carrying water vases on their heads. They said, “What a cruel world that we’re living in! Shame on you for riding so arrogantly while letting your son run behind you.” Embarrassed, the gardener said, “You are right!” So he took his boy up before him on the donkey. Praised by the women, they continued their journey.
On the outskirts of the village, they faced a river. A narrow bridge was the only way to cross the river. Ahead of them was a group of monks. As they wanted to get on the bridge, one of the monks approached and said, “In the name of thy Lord, the creator, have mercy! Don’t you see how this poor animal is struggling under you and your hulking son?”
The gardener, the boy, and the donkey looked at each other with frustration. The gardener asked, “Oh, you wise man, could tell us how we can make this wrong right?” The monk cut down a pole, tied the donkey’s feet to it, and helped them raise the pole and the donkey to their shoulders.
Amidst people’s laughter, they carried the donkey on their shoulders and headed to the bridge. As they crossed the bridge, confused by his unnatural disposition and scared by the furious river, the poor donkey, braying and shaking, attempted to break free. The more they tried to restrain him, the less they succeeded until they lost their balance, and the unfortunate donkey fell into the river and disappeared under the raging waves.
Shocked and shaken, the gardener and his son sat in despair, wondering what they had done wrong?
The moral of the story is: Try to please others, and you lose your most precious thing: yourself.
It’s in our nature to seek the acceptance of others. We’re genetically and socially programmed to seek safety in numbers. We long to belong to a tribe. In the old times, getting banished from one’s tribe meant certain death. Just the thought of being an outcast is freighting and fear can be a strong motivator. It motivates us to please others, so it has become a part of our survival mechanism.
What is wrong with pleasing others to survive?
There’s nothing wrong! Let me ask you this: what is wrong with being weak?
Like the gardener in our story who lost his precious donkey, this behavior is self-deprecating. It will hurt your self-esteem. As a leader, your confidence is the key to becoming influential.
A leader who seeks others’ acceptance so that S/he can survive is perceived as weak.
Will you follow a weakling?
Of Course not! Then why do you expect your peers, CFO, or CEO to follow you?
Balance Is The Key
Please don’t get me wrong! I’m not saying you should not care for others or their opinion. Being a strong leader doesn’t mean being a selfish, arrogant, dismissive, or indifferent boss. On the contrary, great leaders like you are empathic and assertive. Balance is the key. Feeling, knowing, and choosing when to be compassionate and giving, and when to be mindful and persistent is a balancing act. An act that emotionally intelligent leaders like you are capable of performing.
What Is Causing The Imbalance?
According to Positive Intelligence® (PQ) research, sometimes the balance gets disrupted through the act of self-sabotage. There are ten ways that we sabotage ourselves. Each one has a unique name, and the one at work here is called: Pleaser Saboteur. Isn’t it logical?
Click here to take PQ Saboteurs Assessment to learn about your unique ten saboteurs (takes about 5 minutes).
“A Pleaser Saboteurs is the voice in our head that Indirectly tries to gain acceptance and affection by helping, pleasing, rescuing, or flattering others. Loses sight of own needs and becomes resentful as a result.” – Positive Intelligence®.
Where Does It Come From?
Most CIOs, CTOs, and heads of IT that I’ve coached or worked with are empathic, loving, and giving. We are tuned into others’ feelings and needs. Even when others think we are not, we are emotionally self-aware and have high potential for emotional intelligence. Research shows that saboteurs are our strengths turned against us when we abuse or overuse them. In the case of the pleaser saboteur, it’s your loving and giving heart that makes you:
- Say Yes to insane requests of your peers where you should have said No.
- Avoid confronting CEO’s decisions even when you know they’re wrong.
- Convince others about your decisions – you don’t want to make anyone unhappy.
- Push your team hard to keep the unrealistic deadlines so you please your CEO.
- Avoid insisting on the needs of your team because of the fear of upsetting peers.
You Know iT
You know that these behaviors are not good. But your pleaser saboteur tells you sweet lies; big and small:
- You’re doing this for others – You don’t want to be selfish
- Teamwork makes dream work – IT needs to cooperate no matter what
- It would be easier if your peers, CFO, and CEO do the same thing – why don’t they?
And You Think
- To be a good servant leader, I must put the needs of others before mine.
- It’s frustrating when my CEO doesn’t notice what I have done for the company.
- My peers can be very selfish and ungrateful – even brutal and nasty.
- I can and will make anyone like me – then, they will acknowledge my sacrifices.
- Our corporate culture is a toxic one – If I don’t rescue people, who will?
How Can You Get Rid of Your Pleaser Saboteur?
While it’s difficult, if not impossible, to completely get rid of our saboteurs, we can definitely weaken them. For now, practice the following steps:
Step 1: Intercept the Pleaser
Next time you are confronted with a situation that makes you feel the urge to please others, just STOP! Ask yourself: What are the lies I’m telling myself? Listen to the voice that answers. If it comes from fear, label it as a saboteur, and please don’t listen to it.
Step 2: Quite the Fear
Gently rub the fingertips of two fingers with such attention that you can feel all the ridges of both fingertips – keep rubbing them for at least two minutes – This will quiet your survival brain (part of the left brain) and activate your thriving brain (part of the right brain – aka Sage brain).
Step 3: Become Assertive
Ask yourself this: If I was not trying to earn attention and acceptance through helping others, what would be my response to this situation or request? Be curious and fearless about it. It’s not about surviving; it’s about thriving. By saying no to things that will make you show up weak, you are saying yes to becoming strong.
The Pleaser tries to earn acceptance through helping others. Pleasing your peers, CFO, and CEO doesn’t make you look like a strong influential leader but makes you look needy and weak. When they don’t acknowledge you, It will make you feel resentful and bitter. Pleaser uses your giving and loving strengths and turns them against you by abusing them. It tells you lies to justify your actions. Reclaim your power by Intercepting the Pleaser’s lies, Quieting the Survival brain, and choosing to be assertive. Keep practicing the above steps, and I promise that you will become more influential one day at a time.
If you care for your leadership image, want to be more assertive, and reclaim your well-deserved place as an influential strong leader, then:
- Connect with me over LinkedIn, or schedule a call
About the Author
Ali Farahani, CIO’s Strategic Coach
I am a former CIO and CTO with over 25 years of experience in the IT Industry and the co-founder of #mindfittery; a fun and affordable mental fitness gym for It leaders and their teams.
While I was good at managing the machines, I realized that I’m even more passionate about leading people and teams. I am a Certified Mental Fitness Trainer and ICF Certified Leadership Coach, and I know how hard it is to be a good CIO and how it is even harder when you’re new in your role. I’m passionate about helping CIOs, CTOs, and IT leaders new to their roles.
I will help you Thrive in your position by improving Performance and Productivity through Mental Fitness Strategies and techniques! I will work with you 1:1 or as a team.