How Well Do You Know Yourself

Do You Know Yourself Well?
How well do you think you know yourself? Self-awareness is key to success in work, life, and relationships.
Knowing yourself, and knowing the forces that affect the people who work for you, holds the key to being a successful leader.” ~ Kenneth M. Settel, MD, Clinical Instructor in Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, CEO Psychology: Who Rises, Who Falls and Why (RosettaBooks, 2012)
Many of us know our character strengths, and over time have worked to develop them. At the same time, not being cognizant of our weaknesses can blindside our success.
The very character traits that peg you as having high potential may prevent you from making it to the finish line. Every strength has a downside when carried to the extreme. Self-awareness can prevent self-sabotage.
The Pitfalls of Strengths
Here are a few examples of personality traits with both their positive and negative sides from Dr. Rick Brinkman in his book Dealing with People You Can’t Stand.
You probably have a sense of your personal talents and liabilities. Learning how to leverage them – amplifying your strengths while minimizing your weaknesses – sets the stage for good interpersonal relationships. You’ll become less vulnerable and less sensitive to criticism.
Even the strongest, most talented people have flaws. Each of us is driven by conscious and unconscious forces that must be channeled into positive outcomes, so its important to seek personal development opportunities at every stage of your life. You won’t gain self-knowledge in a vacuum, so consider working with a mentor or experienced coach.
Here’s the challenge: if you were to sit down and write out your personality traits and then list a couple of ways they show up as a strength and as a weakness, would you be able to do it? Do you know yourself well?
We have self-centered minds which get us into plenty of trouble. If we do not come to understand the error in the way we think, our self-awareness which is our greatest blessingis also our downfall.~ Joko Beck, author
Open and Closed Mindsets
Eminent psychologist and human intelligence expert Howard Gardner (Extraordinary Minds, 1997) points out that exceptional people have a special talent for identifying their own strengths and weaknesses. They have open minds and are willing to take in feedback about their own deficiencies so they can improve themselves and their organizational performance.
People with a closed mindset, on the other hand, take in only the information that supports their views, and they’re more concerned with appearing superior and right. As a result, they easily distort information so they’ll look good.
Carol Dweck, PhD, an expert in motivation and personality psychology (Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, 2006), has discovered that mindset is not just a minor personality quirk. It creates our whole mental worldview and determines whether we become optimistic or pessimistic. It shapes our goals and attitudes toward work and relationships, and it ultimately predicts whether we will fulfill our potential.
Everyone has one of two basic mindsets:

  1. 1. One mindset is open to growth and learning, believing one can always do better.
  2. 2. The closed mindset is entrenched in the belief that natural talents and abilities predetermine success.

People with open mindsets believe they can always learn more, do more, and improve. They are confident, yet humble enough to work harder to expand their potential. They accept criticism as important feedback, not as a personal insult.
People with closed mindsets believe their innate talents rather than hard work will lead them to succeed.
They constantly seek validation of their worth and want to be right, instead of demonstrating an interest in accepting feedback and a willingness to make changes or adjustments.
If you have an open mindset, you know your talents can be nurtured and that great abilities improve over time. This is the path to opportunity – and success. On the other hand, if you find it difficult to accept and learn from criticism, you might be operating with a closed mindset.
How to Expand Self-Awareness
It’s hard to know how you come across to others if you don’t ask for feedback, which requires taking a risk and feeling vulnerable. With a growth mindset, however, you can open yourself to learning through conversations with trusted peers, a mentor, or a coach.
Here are areas that merit exploring in order to expand your awareness of how you respond to situations:

  • Emotions:
    • o How do you handle emotions, both your own and others’?
    • o Do you know your “hot buttons”?
    • o Are you aware of your feelings as they arise?
    • o How well do you pick up on the feelings of others?
    • o Situations:
    • o How well can you read situations, climates, contexts?
    • o Are you able to grasp the nature of a problem and analyze key points?
    • o How curious are you about things you don’t know much about?
    • o Failure:
    • o How well do you handle your own and others? mistakes?
    • o How do you assign blame?
    • o Are you open to hearing feedback?
    • o Do you play devil’s advocate, willingly examining your assumptions?
    • o Can you own your responsibility in a problem?
    • o Ego:
    • o Do you try to keep your ego in check?
    • o Do you encourage the success of others?
    • o Do you express gratitude regularly?
    • o Do you try to express more positive thoughts than negative ones?
    • o Are you neither too harsh nor too lax with yourself?
    • o Do you try to suspend judgment of other people, places, and things?

Self-awareness requires sensitivity to both inner and outer realities, knowing full well you can never perceive things without your own biases and filters. By keeping a growth mindset, you can ask the questions needed to listen and learn.

Leading With Trust

Leading with Trust:
Principles and Practice

A Watson Wyatt Worldwide study of 12,750 U.S. workers in all major industries found that companies with high trust levels outperform their low-trust counterparts by 186 percent.
In a 2011 Maritz survey, only seven percent of more than 90,000 employees worldwide said they trust their senior leaders to look out for their best interests. It’s not just a problem for rank-and-file employees. Roughly half of all managers distrust their leaders, according to a Golin Harris survey of 450 executives at 30 global companies.
Despite the importance of trust, few leaders give it the focus it deserves. Misunderstood as a nebulous “feeling”, trust is earned through consistent, positive behaviors practiced over time.
Two of the best books on this important topic are:

  1. 1. The Trusted Advisor (Free Press, 2001), by leadership consultants David Maister, Charles Green and Robert Galford
  2. 2. The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook: A Comprehensive Toolkit for Leading with Trust (Wiley, 2011), by Charles H. Green and Andrea P. Howe.

5 Trust-Building Skills
Trustworthy leaders practice and master five key abilities:
1. Listen Well
Most leaders use their listening skills to gather information. But listening is a critical tool for connecting with others, building relationships and strengthening influence. You must pay attention, be empathic and let others know you understand them.
2. Partner
Partnership involves collaborating (not competing), committing to fairness, balancing assertiveness and cooperation, dealing with disagreements, and sharing responsibility for successes and failures.
3. Improvise
Things don’t always go as planned. Glitches and challenges can be “moments of truth” that require rational and emotional flexibility. Leaders are stretched at times, but your ability to handle moments of truth determines your trustworthiness.
4. Take Risks
Trust cannot exist without taking risks and leaving your comfort zone. Every risk you take builds trust. Leaders must be courageous enough to overcome their fears and confront challenging situations with curiosity and authenticity.
5. Know Yourself
Knowing your strengths and weaknesses allows you to delegate and collaborate more effectively. Work with a trusted mentor or executive coach to identify blind spots that impede self-knowledge.
3 Common Blind Spots
The traits that make you a strong leader may inadvertently interfere with building self-awareness and trusting relationships. Consider these common blind spots:

  • You don’t realize the extent of your need to be liked. How often do you avoid saying or doing something because it might be unpopular?
  • You’ve underestimated the intensity of your internal drive to achieve. Results-oriented leaders habitually move too quickly from fully listening to pushing for commitments.
  • You overlook your discomfort with feeling unprepared. Leaders aren’t clairvoyant and don’t have all the answers. This uneasiness may prevent you from engaging in collaboration and depending on others.

4 Components of Trust
Four key components contribute to your overall trustworthiness.

  1. 1. Credibility (the realm of words): Our level of expertise and how we present our knowledge determine our credibility. When we study facts and complete analytical research, we build up our credibility. We boost credibility in our business conversations by:
  1. a) Developing formidable expertise in our industry
  2. b) Staying current with industry trends and business news
  3. c) Offering our point of view (when we have one)
  4. d) Being willing to say “I don’t know” when this is an honest answer
  5. e) Expressing passion for our areas of expertise
  6. f) Communicating with self-assurance (a firm handshake, direct eye contact, a confident air)
  1. 2. Reliability (the realm of actions): Do you fulfill the promises you make? Do you deliver on your commitments? Reliability is built over time, but it can be destroyed in a second. Boost your reliability with consistency, predictability and certainty:
  1. a) State expectations up front. Regularly reinforce them.
  2. b) Make lots of small promises, and consistently follow through on them.
  3. c) Be prompt.
  4. d) Communicate if you fall behind. Take responsibility for delays.
  5. e) Respect organizational norms and culture.
  1. 3. Intimacy (the realm of emotions): It’s easy to keep a professional distance in our interactions, but the “all-business” leader rarely gets ahead. The problem with intimacy is that the word carries a connotation of closeness that isn’t appropriate at work. In reality, intimacy refers to your willingness to share appropriate information about the things that truly matter.

Boost intimacy by sharing personal experiences and values. Learn to:

  1. a) Listen beyond the words. Pick up on tone, emotion and mood. Acknowledge these elements aloud.
  2. b) Tell people what you really appreciate about them. Don’t keep it to yourself!
  3. c) Use people’s names in conversations.
  4. d) Share something personal about yourself. This makes you more human and interesting.
  1. 4. Self-Orientation (the realm of motives): Without doubt, we are all self-motivated to a degree. But we also want what’s best for others, the company or the team. How often do you speak about yourself: your wants, needs, goals and priorities? Are you oriented toward finding win-win solutions that take others’ needs into account?

When trust breaks down, excess self-orientation is usually to blame. You can lower your level of self-orientation in relationships by:

  1. a) Taking time to find the best solution
  2. b) Sharing time, resources and ideas
  3. c) Asking lots of questions from a place of curiosity and figuring out your partner’s definition of success
  4. d) Negotiating for a true win-win
  5. e) Listening even when it’s uncomfortable to be silent
  6. f) Speaking hard truths, even when it’s awkward
  7. g) Giving your partner the credit for ideas and achievements

Understanding your quirks and weaknesses allows you to rein in your ego and increase your trustworthiness.