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The unaccounted costs of a self-focused mindset

The unaccounted costs of a self-focused mindset
Let’s start with a story. AZ Consulting Group is an organization that works toward improving management practices in client companies. Abhay and Nirav (names changed) are colleagues at AZ who manage the HR and IT teams. They worked closely to digitize human capital management for one of their clients to deal with talent and performance management challenges, skill development, and flexible work practices. While Abhay and Nirav tried to make life easier for their client, they sometimes had issues with each other. Abhay believed that Nirav was not great alone if Abhay didn’t provide him with the information about their client. At the same time, Nirav thought Abhay couldn’t do anything without his technological guidance. Abhay and Nirav were self-focused, and how they behaved toward each other hurt their relationship with the client company. Let us try to explore how.

Abhay had worked with Pranay (name changed), who was the manager of the IT team before Nirav. They were part of a similar project, which was successful. Abhay could have shared the resources and insights from that project with Nirav, but he chose not to.

Nirav eventually proposed an information management system to make HR-related information accessible to employees of their client company. Abhay saw some things that could have been improved in his proposal but didn’t insist on the necessary changes. The system Nirav proposed would make HR-related information accessible across every department without any boundaries whatsoever. Since the client company valued transparency and openness, Nirav thought his idea was outstanding no matter what Abhay thought. When Abhay and Nirav consulted the HR team and some key decision-makers, they seemed happy with the idea. However, neither Abhay nor Nirav made it a point to clarify to the clients that the employees could even access performance reports and feedback across all departments. When Abhay didn’t see Nirav bringing it up, he thought, ‘Well, why should I talk about it? It is his idea.’ The client company assumed there would be an inter-departmental flow of information on a generic level, with which they were encouraged to move forward. There was a massive backlash within two weeks of the system’s launch. Some employees had joined the client company a few months back and were a part of the biannual performance reviews. There was no harm in sharing the generic insights from their performance reviews with the other employees within and across their respective departments anonymously. Instead, the system showed every detail of the one/one interviews and performance feedback with disclosed identities. This incident created many problems in the client’s company. It triggered the new employees, and some old employees were on the verge of leaving the company because of the prevailing mistrust. When the client company’s managers consulted the AZ Consulting Group team, neither Abhay nor Nirav was ready to take responsibility for what had happened. Each one insisted on the role the other had to play in inviting the disaster for their client. Although the senior management at AZ intervened and was ready to make amends, the client eventually rolled back the project, and the companies never worked with each other again. Who was responsible for what happened? This incident dented AZ Consulting Group’s relationship with its client. We aren’t sure what happened to Abhay and Nirav in the aftermath but you might be wondering whose fault it was. Maybe Abhay should have shared insights from previous projects to help Nirav identify the blind spots of their efforts much earlier. Maybe Nirav needed to be extra careful regarding the sensitivity of the system. He should have mindfully considered the loopholes of his idea before implementing it. The client could have been more inquiring about the approach before bringing everyone from their organization on board. Whose fault? Who was responsible for what happened? Was it Abhay, Nirav, or the client company? A self-focused mindset perpetuates a lack of accountability What do you think might have happened in the headquarters of the AZ Consulting Group after the incident? Abhay might have pointed fingers at Nirav and his team for whatever happened; for not considering his feedback. Nirav might have blamed Abhay for not supporting and guiding him well. There could be so many possibilities. But what harmed AZ Consulting Group’s relationship with its client? In a single phrase, the answer is—a self-focused mindset. Abhay and Nirav were self-focused from the very beginning of the collaboration. Each saw the other as an irrelevance to ignore and an obstacle to overcome. Each saw the other as an object—dismissing their needs, objectives, and concerns. It eventually meant bad news for the collaboration and their relationship with the client. Not even once did they think about how their behavior toward each other and the underlying (self-focused) mindset would impact the project. One of the many things that a self-focused mindset does to us is that it makes us unaccountable for our actions. It prevents us from seeing the impact we have on those around us. It prevents us from thinking about shared outcomes and goals. It blinds us from acknowledging the part we have to play in making things better or worse. Impact-focused mindset: The key to overcoming the costs of a self-focused mindset Had Abhay and Nirav shown openness and care toward each other and the collaboration, they might have worked better as a team. With an impact-focused mindset and accountability toward their actions, they might have been able to see each other as people, people with needs, objectives, and challenges similar to their own. Had they operated with an impact-focused mindset, we know it would be a completely different fate for both companies. Rather than taking corrective measures and making amends, even in the immediate aftermath of the mishap, Abhay and Nirav took things personally and didn’t accept their mistake. Eventually, it led them to compromise their integrity and cost them their client. We have no clue whether Abhay and Nirav stayed in AZ. What we know is that organizations and employees can readily become self-focused in such high-stakes situations. In this case, the client could have easily sued AZ and the rest would be a bitter history. When an organization audits its financial reports at the end of the year, it can often overlook one aspect—the unresolved conflicts resulting from the team members’ self-focused mindset. These unresolved conflicts are the most expensive yet unaccounted cost in a company’s balance sheet—a perspective we must be careful of if we are to live and lead impactfully. The author is the linchpin at My Emotions Matter, an education initiative that helps individuals and teams learn the mindset and skills of Emotional Intelligence. You can learn more at