“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”

― Carl Jung

THE IDEA:  Why is it so difficult for leaders to see how they affect others?  We start believing success in the past will lead to success in the future, but previous success is never our friend.  Past victories can be invisible anchors holding us back, cementing mental models we are not even aware of.  Executive Coach Marshall Goldsmith frames it perfectly, “most people think, I behave this way. I am successful. Therefore, I must be successful because I behave this way.”  We start to believe we are successful because of our dysfunctional behaviors, instead of despite these flaws.  I can relate, how about you?

Organizational psychologist and researcher Tasha Eurich uncovered that 95% of people believe they are self-aware, but only 10-15% of people are extremely self-aware.  Most people struggle with internal feelings of insecurity or how they negatively impact others without knowing it. The higher you climb, the more this delusion kicks in.  We are all vulnerable to the desire for success, title, and achievement; the trick is to temper this desire enough to remain hungry.  

I was once sitting at a national meeting; I noticed a group of younger associates buttering up the CEO over dinner.  Everything the senior leader shared was acknowledged as brilliant and every joke elicited enormous laughter.  The CEO was at the top of the hierarchy and the center of everyone’s attention.  I thought to myself, any leader at this moment would believe they were Robin William’s comic rival and the most interesting person in the room.  My second thought was when have I been guilty of this behavior?  Everyone is vulnerable to warped perceptions when others fawn them with praise.  

We all need truth-tellers in our lives.  When you experience higher levels of success, you tend to shut out others’ negative assessments of your efforts.  You become overconfident, too relaxed, and lose a bit of your critical thinking.  So, what is the answer?

PRIME THE PUMP.  Since most people shy away from sharing difficult feedback, we must learn to naturally coax out the unfiltered truth from people who know us well and have insight into our blind spots or leadership vulnerabilities.  By priming the pump and sharing your weaknesses up front, you give others permission to chime in and share additional thoughts on how they can help support your personal awareness.

DO THE WORK.  The healthiest leaders I collaborate with are very comfortable showing the cracks in their personal armor. In fact, they relish these moments, understanding this is how you build authentic relationships and self-awareness. Are you courageous enough to work with a coach for an extended period?  A trusted coach reminds you of behaviors you may already know but is not exercising. In short, they help you see yourself clearly.   

If you want to make personal gains, you must work closely with outsiders to help embrace your leadership reality, and deliberately practice having courageous conversations with peers, associates, or supervisors. 

Confronting the truth of how you are affecting others is not for the faint of heart, but the fearless.

“You can’t get away from yourself by moving from one place to another.”

― Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises