Four Steps to Growing in Self-Awareness
Have you ever seen the digital “Your Speed” signs alongside the road? The sign tells you how fast you are going as you drive past. Now, you have that information on your speedometer, but having it projected at you from a different angle allows you to receive the information in a unique way. The sign is designed to help you alter your speed. By gathering information and presenting it in a relevant way, the assumption is that you will receive the information and respond with positive action.
Your Speed Signs
Most of us are more effective in life and leadership when we know where we stand and where we are going. It is the feedback along the way that helps us make the adjustments that assist us into living into who we are created to be. Feedback, even if it is information you already know, helps you alter your behavior in a positive way.
To fully develop a healthy self-awareness, it is important to understand how you are perceived by the people with whom you live, work, and associate on a daily basis. In a constructive and beneficial way, these people are “Your Speed” signs.
Your Response to Feedback
Bill George, in his book Discover Your Truth North, tells the story of Kroger CEO David Dillon. Dillon, in telling his experience regarding feedback, says, “Feedback helps you take the blinders off, face reality, and see yourself as you really are.”
He admits that his natural reaction to feedback is defensiveness. He attributes this to how he copes with negative information. Now, you and I know that it can be tough to hear negative things about ourselves. But Dillon makes a point to tell colleagues that he appreciates their input despite how it may make him feel. Just because something is uncomfortable, does not mean it’s wrong. It takes maturity to graciously accept feedback that you would rather not hear.
To grow as an effective leader, you need others to help give you information from a different angle so you can receive it, reflect upon it, and respond to it in positive ways. To be truly self-aware you must know how your behavior affects others.
Now, how do you set up “Your Speed” signs? How do you solicit feedback and interpret it in a way that allows you to respond with positive action?
Mistakes We Make Around Feedback
One way to solicit information is to ask people with whom you work to give you anonymous written feedback. Although this will provide you with information upon which you can reflect and respond, it does two things that are not helpful.
First, we tend to think that anonymity allows people to be more honest in their feedback. The reality is anonymity feeds the mistrust that creates a culture of fear. As a leader, you want to create a culture of trust through vulnerability and transparency. Anonymous information falls short of creating a culture of trust.
Second, we tend to make anonymous information at the end of the process. The purpose of the exercise is not to collect information but to help you become more the person and the leader you are created to be.
The information is a means to an end, a tool to assist you in your self-awareness. The purpose is for you to receive feedback that helps you become more the person and the leader you are created to be.
Open and Honest Feedback
With that in mind, true feedback is best provided in open conversations with people who are honest in their offerings. The conversation is with trusted friends and colleagues who desire to support you and who want you to be the best human being as well the best leader you can be.
So, a better way to solicit information is to ask three to five persons, who you trust, to help you. You want at least three people, preferably five, because you will receive more reliable feedback.
It is one thing to receive feedback from one person, but it is another to receive the exact same feedback from three, four, or five different people. If a larger number of trusted friends and colleagues are telling you the same thing about your behavior, you are more likely to make a positive change.
Four Steps for Receiving Feedback
Here are four steps for getting feedback on how your behaviors are affecting others.
1. Ask for feedback.
This is your opportunity to gather information. Invite 3 to 5 people to assist you in becoming the best leader you can be. These people are people who you trust, who have your best interest in mind, and who have a good understanding of you, your work style, and how you interact with others. They are people who care about you. Because of Your trust relationship, these people are people who will be honest with you.
Tasha Eurich, in her book, Insight: The Surprising Truth About How Others See Us, How We See Ourselves, and Why the Answers Matter More Than We Think, writes, “Feedback from one person is a perspective; feedback from two people is a pattern; but feedback from three or more people is likely to be as close to a fact as you can get.”
You can either have them gather as a group or you can interact with each person individually. Just remember, the people you are inviting to offer feedback are trusted friends, colleagues, and family members who want you to succeed. People you trust and who will be honest with you.
2. Gather your information.
This is your opportunity to receive feedback. At this point, it is best to focus on a few things rather than everything. So, ask the following questions, one at a time. Give people time to think and to respond.
- What am I currently doing well that demonstrates my skills as a leader?
- What are examples of growth you have observed in me since we began working together?
- What is one thing, if I did it at an improved level, that would have a positive impact on my leadership?
At this point, your responsibility is to listen. Listen with your mind and heart for understanding. Listen to receive the information. Take notes for your time of reflection. Give yourself permission not to defend yourself or to interrupt those giving feedback to clarify what you are hearing. Remember, these people have your best interest in mind. Presume positive intent and stay neutral as you gather and receive the feedback.
3. Receive, reflect, and respond.
First, receive the feedback with grace. This information is for you and your improvement. This is your opportunity to grow in your self-awareness. Keep in mind you have asked trusted friends and colleagues to assist you. Each person cares for you and has your best interest in mind.
Second, reflect upon the feedback you have received. Ask yourself these questions:
- What am I learning about myself?
- How do others perceive my work style?
- How do others perceive my interaction with the people around me?”
Third, respond to the feedback you have received. Keep in mind the following:
- This is not a time to be defensive, to shut down, or to dismiss what you are learning.
- Take notes and remember what you are feeling when you receive the feedback.
- Name the emotions you are experiencing. Be specific. It is important to name your feelings.
- Ask yourself, “What do I need to do to be the person I want to be?”
4. Thank the people who have assisted you in gathering your feedback.
Gratitude is important in developing self-awareness.
- Share with them how the feedback has been helpful.
- Share how you will use the feedback. What are one or two steps you plan to take?
- If you are not ready to share specific steps, make a commitment to get back to each person at a later time. Be specific regarding date and time.
- Give each person permission to hold you accountable to your next steps.
Set up Your Speed Sign
Growing in self-awareness is not easy. There are no quick fixes. In fact, developing a healthy self-awareness is a lifetime process. By taking the risk to become vulnerable, by gathering feedback from others, indicates your desire to enter the process and become the leader God has created you to be.
This week, set up “Your Speed” sign? What one step will you take to receive the feedback you need to become the person and leader for this time in history?
When you want assistance, remember that Sara Thomas and I are with you in your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help, contact us at email@example.com. We are ready to assist you with insights and resources in becoming a courageous leader.
Check out LeaderCast. On the podcast this month, Sara and I are talking with leaders about self-awareness. This week we have a conversation with Barry Burns. Check out our conversation in Episode 170 of LeaderCast. This is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the challenges of 2021. Remember, who you are is how you lead.
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