If this is true, what’s a leader to do . . . to know one’s self?
No wonder my clients are confused about the information and tools they need to develop as leaders. It is hard for them to choose how to gain self-knowledge when they are bombarded with so many assessments, tools, and conflicting opinions.
In the movies, the best cinematographers use multiple shots to frame the story from different angles. Here are three angles you can integrate to make sense of what’s true and useful about knowing yourself.
The First Angle:
Know How Others Know You. It is the most important view. Freud, the famed psychologist, made this point when he said, “The self you know is hardly worth knowing.” Put in context it is an intriguing phrase that jolts your gaze from your limited view of yourself to clearly see the you that others experience.
Why? If you think you know how your behavior impacts your performance, odds are you are wrong—probably 50 to 75% of the time. Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist professor at the Wharton School of business, cites sixteen studies of thousands of people at work. They show that our coworkers are better than we are at recognizing how our personality affects our performance.
How to Clearly See How Others Know You.
- An obvious solution is to ask others. This is a winning strategy if you ask people who are in a place to see how you behave, who trust you enough to tell you the truth, and are skilled at delivering specific feedback. If this works for you, go for it. If not, consider a second strategy.
- Get a formal 360–degree feedback survey report. Often these reports provide so much data that it is hard to find the nuggets of information most important for your success. I have found that 360 tools that simplify and focus data, like the Leadership Versatility Index, clear up the picture faster and with more fidelity.
- My favorite strategy is having a coach interview key people you influence and report what they say. Data is a cool medium, but the words people say have life and heat. They pack more punch. When I share a clear and vivid story based on what I heard, it can take people’s breath away. But it leads to faster action. People often thank me for lifting the fog on the feedback they have never heard before.
The Second Angle:
Know Your Self Too. I do not entirely agree with Freud. Knowing how others see you is not enough. You need to know yourself too. Having a clear picture of your baseline personality and how it likely impacts your performance will give you an edge in developing your leadership.
Why? Knowing your personality will help you do a better job of choosing your strengths when they fit. It will light up a warning signal when you are hell–bent to overuse a strength that can backfire. It will give you the insight to adjust your behavior to increase the positive impact of your leadership. Knowing your personality is like seeing the part of the movie that reveals what’s driving the character’s action. Knowing your personality gives you access to your inner operating system so you can choose to use it or over override it for better outcomes.
How to Clearly See Your Inner Self.
This is where the picture gets blurry. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of personality assessments. Some are downright silly, like the 4–part model I once saw comparing you to different animals. There are many more serious instruments such as Meyers Brigg, Personalysis, and DISC that give people and teams new insights about differences in style.
Being a nerd who digs deep to understand the science behind any instruments I use, I prefer the Hogan personality assessment. The conclusive science behind it lifts it to a higher standard: it reliably predicts leadership success. It is like an MRI compared to other personality assessments which are like X-Rays. X-Rays produce an image of the body’s internal structure. An MRI shows highly detailed images of structures in the body.
With the Hogan personality assessment and the add-ons of a value assessment and a development assessment (predicting strengths you could overuse when you are stressed), I can share a fascinating, full-featured and memorable picture to inform your development.
The Third Angle:
Continually Updating the You Others Know and Your Knowledge of Yourself.
Do you have an accurate picture of how others know you?
Do you have an accurate read on your baseline personality?
If not, or if you have had a one-and-done look at yourself without follow up, you will not fully develop as a leader. Surprise! I am switching from Freud to Bruce Lee to explain this third angle. Bruce Lee was a famous martial artist, philosopher, film producer, director, and star.
If you have seen his movies you know how adept he was at constantly staying in tune with his opponent and the shifting environment. The speed and grace with which he adjusted his actions were breathtaking. Bruce said, “To know oneself is to study one’s self in action with another person.” Wise words that bring together both the outside-in view of how others know you and the inside-out view of how you know yourself. Words that put these views in motion by reminding us to keep noticing ourselves in action as the context changes.
Why? The leaders best at developing from experience take a Bruce Lee approach. Even pre-pandemic, the level of resiliency, adaptability, and learning in this approach was important. Now it is required. Leaders who will perform best in the future will continuously: seek out feedback from others; assess the situation to see how their personality might work for them or against them; and adjust. They will not be stuck in a pause node but constantly be in a play mode punctuated with regular short freeze frames to stand back and get new information and incorporate it.
How. Like Bruce Lee develop the disciplined habits to continually get feedback from others. Look at your natural strengths and tendencies. Adjust your behaviors to succeed in the situation. Be a versatile leader who constantly learns.
Call to Action
I have a list of things I have seen leaders do to use habits that increase their self-knowledge and behavioral versatility. Let me know what you do that makes you the Bruce Lee of knowing yourself. A leader who boldly but thoughtfully meets each situation, even if unanticipated, with grace and success. I will summarize your habits, add the ones I have seen and feed them back.