We each have danger zones we have to watch out for in the course of our work. They can be particular habits or patterns we fall into when we go into “coast mode” or areas or situations where we are likely to get irritated and short-circuit collaborative relationships.
The problem is that these “danger zones” are often invisible to us, because we can’t step outside of our own experience in order to see how we are actually behaving or engaging in the work. Thus, it’s possible to drift off course over time simply because we aren’t aware that we’ve set the wrong bearing.
One simple method that I’ve discovered to be an effective way of uncovering potential danger zones is to pay attention to the secrets I keep. Secrets are often sourced in areas of (a) shame, (b) insecurity, or (c) uncertainty and can indicate places where I am feeling less than confident about my work. These are often the areas where I’m also likely to fall into unhealthy habits, or to get especially defensive when questioned.
You keep secrets in areas where you are protecting something. It could be your self-image, your lack of diligence, or your ego. When you hide behind a mask you are protecting yourself from the fallout of someone discovering the truth of the matter, or at least your perception of the truth. However, self-protection provides a motive other than the one that should dominate your efforts: producing brilliant work.
You can’t have two motives at once: self-protection, and brilliant work. Thus, when you are in self-protection mode you risk forfeiting your best efforts.
Are there secrets you’re keeping in your work, and what do they tell you about your motives, fears, and sense of identity? Do they point to any potentially ineffective activity, or places where you are dividing your efforts between self-protection and effectiveness?
Ideally, there is no need to keep secrets in an organizational environment where trust and respect are highly reinforced. However, pay attention to the places where you feel the urge to hide in the shadows, and you may uncover areas where you are straying into your danger zones.