It takes practice to be self-aware. Putting time aside to self-reflect is imperative for leaders, yet so many are rushing at such a pace that they create fires that everyone ends up having to deal with. Investing time upfront to reflect and realign saves energy and resources in the long run.
From time to time through your self-reflection you may bump into your ego. Our ego is not really our true self; the core of who we are. Our ego is driven by fear. Although ego does play an important role in protection at certain times, the danger is that it wants power and control. Our true self is the perfect balance of confidence and humility, not dominated by fear. Keeping our ego in place will help us be able to look objectively and make the changes we desire.
A lot of this involves emotional intelligence, having self-awareness of our own emotions and an awareness and appreciation of others. Empathy doesn’t come naturally to everyone, and it typically comes up as a practice area with many of the leaders I work with. Too often I see executive level leaders avoiding situations that involve emotion or situations they think might result in something emotional. In fact, this can be the biggest reason they avoid the practice of self-reflection. With GRIT®, you no longer avoid the sticky uncomfortable conversations or situations (the emotional stuff). You have clarity, your intent is helpful, and you respect situations and people and deliver the message respectfully.
Once you engage in self-awareness, and you decide it is something you want to change, it just takes mindfulness and practice. But with any attribute we notice and want to change about ourselves, one thing that often gets in the way is the underlying thought that we should be perfect (there’s that ego again).
Too often leaders put themselves under so much pressure to perform to perfection, while ironically if they were more transparent and comfortable being vulnerable, people would connect with them and trust them even more. It’s not about being perfect, at least not that unattainable definition of perfection that most of us strive for. As George Orwell said, “The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection.” Instead, it’s about doing our best; continuously growing and learning and not being afraid to show some vulnerability.
If we spend the time to understand our own limitations and strengths, and respect that we all have them, we’ll feel more comfortable with being vulnerable. For instance, a CFO I was coaching revealed to me that one of the things she hated doing the most was holding people accountable. After talking about it a bit, I asked her if she would consider letting her team know about this. At first she resisted and felt that it would make her appear weak and they may take advantage of her. After having her consider it from the other perspective of perhaps her boss sharing something like this with her and the team, she realized it would help people see that she is real, and that she trusts them enough to reveal this to them. A few months later she reported that not only were people opening up more to her and she was feeling less resistance, but they were actually stepping up and holding themselves more accountable!
Taking time out for self-reflection, while managing our ego, might well be one of the most important leadership activities that will have the greatest value to ourselves, our teams and our organizations!
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