Stunningly brilliant performance by Kseniya Simonova.
This was originally posted in Inc Magazine, and too good not to share forward. Even if you never admit this to others, if you see yourself below use that as a first step towards self-improvement. -Doña Keating
7 Signs You're Not as Self-Aware as You Think
BY STEVE TOBAK
Self-awareness is a really big deal for everyone, especially executives and business leaders. Failure to face reality can destroy your career and your company.
Being in the advice giving game isn't all it's cracked up to be. It's not like you get to sit on a mountaintop and just rain down pearls of wisdom on your clients. When it comes to executives and business leaders, it's almost never that black and white.
Granted, there are times when people are genuinely open to the voice of experience and perhaps a little objectivity. Then there's the opposite extreme: deep denial. Where they don't want to hear the truth no matter what you say or how you say it.
And in between those black and white peaks is a vast plane of gray, where people sort of know, deep down, what they need to do but something's stopping them from doing it. That something is almost always beneath the surface, meaning it isn't easy to get to and folks will often confound, thwart, or downright resist the effort.
The truth is there are lots of paths people take to avoid confronting whatever it is they don't want to confront. And those paths can lead to career demise or business destruction. No kidding.
Here are seven signs you may be heading down the latter path.
You're a bully. If you didn't have emotions, you wouldn't be human. Feelings are important guidance mechanisms. Anger and aggression are no different. They're signs that you feel threatened or scared. You go on the offensive and bully to protect something deep within you, something you don't want people to see, often feelings of weakness and vulnerability. Ironic, isn't it?
You're defensive. When chief executives resist a consultant or executive coach who wants to meet with their staff or outside directors one-on-one, when genuine and objective feedback makes them agitated or even angry, that's a sure sign. I'm not even sure why they call it "defensive, since defensive people almost always deflect by going on the offensive.
You're controlling. When you behave in a controlling way--when you micromanage, pick on the little things--it usually means you're not dealing with a big thing that's really bugging you. It means you're not paying attention to something really important. Left unchecked, that can definitely take you down a dark path.
You're passive aggressive. When you say, "Sure, no problem," then turn around and do the exact opposite, it means you don't want to confront others or be confronted by them. It's a deflection, an attempt to throw them off the scent so you don't have to deal with something that affects you deeply. Again, it's usually something you're not consciously aware of, something that makes you feel vulnerable or embarrassed.
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I recently read a community column about problem solvers in action. Though the end portion of the article was an excellent example of assistance to those who'd lost their homes to a Christmas Eve fire, the prelude characterised its participants as a rare and misunderstood breed of problem solvers. This was followed by indirect and derogatory references to fragile egos, judgmental spectators, and less than "solid contributors" who presumably didn't have the mettle to deal with the aggressive, abrupt or rude behaviour of the valiant SuperVolunteer crew. These problem solvers were too focused on 'moving the ball forward' to worry about popularity or acknowledgment for their efforts (self-aggrandising article notwithstanding), or unmentionables who perceived the doers as a threat to personal fiefdoms. Unlike those looking to 'control the system to their advantage', the Problem Solvers were part of the solution.
Years ago, Harvard Business Review published a portion of W.C.H. Prentice's 1961 article about understanding leadership. Though dated, its insights remain spot on and prophetic - and he gets straight to the salient point upfront by offering that 'leaders succeed when they learn two basic lessons: people are complex, and different'. He further suggests:
"He may not possess or display power; force or the threat of harm may never enter into his dealings. He may not be popular; his followers may never do what he wishes out of love or admiration for him. He may not ever be a colorful person; he may never use memorable devices to dramatize the purposes of his group or to focus attention on his leadership. As for the important matter of setting goals, he may actually be a man of little influence, or even of little skill; as a leader he may merely carry out the plans of others.
His unique achievement is a human and social one which stems from his understanding of his fellow workers and the relationship of their individual goals to the group goal that he must carry out."
Prentice isn't just referring to being nice, but using a wide range of socio-emotionally intelligent skills. The military is an example of a hierarchical structure wherein one must follow commands without question, but in most other environments a leader's success is closely tied to his or her ability to tap into individual motivations and achieve wide-reaching goals.
I can be quite straightforward, and certainly appreciate the consequences of this - criticism, retaliation, mischaracterisation. However, I also recognise that too much of that approach, particularly if rude or lacking in tact, can result in one-dimensionality and limited effectiveness. Thus, the community columnist is entitled to her opinion and vent, but there is cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias in her dystopian-saviour scenario which undermined her message.
The charitable actions described in the column are a reactive contribution. A proactive one might be efforts to improve conditions so that residents can afford to purchase space heaters that don’t malfunction and kill them, such as improving economic and educational opportunities. We can treat symptoms of problems, their essence - or both. Teaching a man to fish has different consequences than bringing him meals. Is one better or more necessary than the other? It depends. But in failing to acknowledge the benefit of both in the 'doer' ecosystem, the columnist missed an opportunity to mobilise a community. Instead, she squandered it on prose which attempted to manipulate a situation to her advantage, create a 'problem solvers' fiefdom, and seek the very acknowledgment she claimed not to need. Ultimately, this contradictory misfire weakened her credibility.
Maslow's Hammer (also known as Law of the Instrument or Law of the Hammer) is the concept of over-reliance on a familiar modus operandi. "If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail" is a common quote to describe this tendency. Problem-solving is a critical and necessary tool to have in one's box, but this point of reference generally depends on the initial actions and failures of someone else, or a mindset of waiting for something to go wrong before engaging. There can be much lower risk in fixing mistakes than being the architect, and easier to throw stones at a house than to build one.
Are there valid reasons to separate oneself from the pack and move forward? Indeed. Many of us do it often because we prefer to get things done, and there are armchair critics or analysis paralysis environments that hinder. Is there nobility in civic service, elected or otherwise? Absolutely. However, the approach by the columnist looks less like altruism, and begins to appear as if preying on tragedies, the downtrodden, or 'problems to solve' is more of a publicity stunt. Either way, it's a missed opportunity to exhibit true leadership.
Many years ago, I concluded: (1) What others think of me is none of my business; and (2) Never allow yourself to be defined by someone else's opinion of you. That being said, we are in a constant energy dance with ourselves and others towards higher understanding. It requires a great deal of courage and self-awareness to take responsibility for our behaviour - whether through word or deed - and acknowledge how it might impact the world around us.
My lengthy career has involved providing strategic advice and counsel to public and private sector leaders around the world. What they all share is a willingness to explore, admit, and rectify where they've all fallen short. Those sessions are not always happy occasions, but they are straightforward, not taken personally, and all parties emerge from the room ready for a cigar, scotch, game of squash, or rounds of golf.
Though an assessment or opinion doesn't define us, the belief that one is in an ivory hierarchical tower and beyond reproach is sorely misplaced. Imperfection is not synonymous with a fatally flawed personal or business model. Validate the origin of advice, but embrace opportunities to learn about and improve methodology, leadership, or process efficiency.
There is so much news coming at us on a regular basis, whether about the devastation in the Philippines, or a senseless crime against innocents. Sometimes it's easier to tune out, or absorb the horror but attempt a quick psychological exit so as to not become too overwhelmed.
Last week, I traveled to Los Angeles on business. Because of the tragic shooting and killing of a TSA agent only a day before, our morning flight was canceled. After finally being booked for late afternoon departure, we were then delayed three times, eventually leaving Seattle around 7p.
Once we landed, the reminder of what had occurred on November 1 hit us immediately, as brilliant 100-ft lighted pylons lit the night in hounour of TSA Officer Gerardo Hernandez. Passengers disembarked from the plane and quietly walked through Terminal 3 to meet loved ones, retrieve baggage, or grab transportation to their ultimate destination.
When we returned to the same terminal for our flight back to Seattle, we again solemnly took in this scene, as well as the makeshift memorial just inside the terminal doors. There was a moment where I wanted to take a photo of it with my smartphone, but it somehow felt too intrusive, too trite. With a heavy heart, we walked past a female TSA agent standing nearby. Our eyes locked and immediately watered. She quietly nodded, as I took the escalator up to the gate. The poignant reminder was that of a loved one who left home for work that day and never returned, a fear many of us carry daily.
It was disturbing to read in today's news that Hernandez lay bleeding for 33 minutes without medical attention whilst paramedics stood ready to assist a mere 150 feet away. When authorities finally went to his aid after helping other wounded victims, an airport police officer thought he detected a light pulse and immediately wheeled Hernandez out to paramedics. Killed a week before his 40th birthday, this was someone's father, husband, son, and friend. I can't shake the feeling that he deserved better, and might have survived if he was seen as a human being and life worth saving versus collateral from the scene of a shooting. I shudder to think if that had been my husband -- alone, thinking about us, and taking stock of his life as his final moments faded away.
May you rest in peace, Gerardo.
Recently, I competed in an international contest for a guest blogger slot at EmTechMIT 2013, which is globally recognised as a showcase of emerging technologies. The event is held annually at MIT Media Lab in Cambridge, MA.
I won, and spent last week immersed in a wonderfully brilliant, positive, and innovative culture where there is no option entertained other than achievement and success. I've spent many years in that environment myself, particularly at the academic level. However, there is something about the policy arena which can pummel an idea or exuberance to a pulp with the negativity or scrapping, and there was not a hint of this on display.
Every cell in my body was on fire with the energy of 'Yes, we can -- and will. In fact, we have!' To top it all off, I won a Kindle Fire HD at the end of the event.
This is an event everyone should attend at least once. And if you can't or are just slightly curious about what occurred, pop on over to my blogs at MIT about Day 1 and Day 2 of the event, in addition to my overall thoughts about the experience.
Also, if you are further inclined, browse the videos from the programme. You won't be disappointed as they are all exciting, but some of my current favourites include:
I cannot express my gratitude enough to MIT Sloan Executive Education for the perfectly timed spark. Thank you on so many levels...
Consulting on the Cusp of Disruption is an excellent article written by Clayton M. Christensen, Dina Wang, and Derek van Bever in the October 2013 issue of Harvard Business Review. Clayton M. Christensen is the Kim B. Clark Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. Dina Wang, formerly an engagement manager at McKinsey & Company, was a fellow at the Forum for Growth and Innovation at Harvard Business School and has just returned to the firm. Derek van Bever,a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School, is the director of the Forum for Growth and Innovation and was a member of the founding executive team of the advisory firm CEB.
The basic premise is there are three consulting business models, and the more traditional solution-shop model is at risk of being disrupted by other models. According to the article, the main differences among them are as follows:
Examples: McKinsey, Bain, BCG, IDEO
Value-Added Process Business
Examples: Motista, Salesforce.com, McKinsey Solutions
Accenture, Deloitte (both moving toward solution shop)
Examples: OpenIDEO, CEB, Gerson Lehrman Group, Eden McCallum, BTG
Read the entire article and let us know what you think!
Oftentimes, messages and experiences arrive at the perfect moment, even if we don't always believe they have.
In this case, the message that landed in my inbox a few days ago was a spot on reminder in all respects.
Hope you're enjoying your summer!
Nocturnal’s “Paris (Ooh La La)”. And who expected Cher Lloyd to get her ultimate swag on with Keri Hilson's version of Soulja Boy's "Turn My Swag On". The heartbreaking and inspiring journey of the homeless boy in Korea. However, the one who really gave me chills for days was Melanie Amaro when she blew the roof off the house with Beyonce’s “Listen”.
I hadn’t heard of “Listen” before this. Nor had I heard Beyonce sing before this year’s Superbowl Halftime Show (yes, I know…odd). But I love *everything* about Amaro’s performance and its timely appearance in my life. The song choice about finding one’s own voice, being at a crossroads, and ready to make life-changing decisions. Knowing my own child will one day thank me whilst moving on with a similar message, the one I also gave my parents.. Amaro’s family members sobbing and silently mouthing the words with her backstage as she nails it. X-Factor judges mesmerised and brought to tears. The audience…moved and cheering her on, touched by the perfection in her voice and delivery. And Amaro, on fire with the passion of a real chance to realise lifelong dreams. I’ve replayed her audition nearly a dozen times with my own young daughter, and each time it tweaks a string deep within my heart.
At the end of Melanie’s performance, she expels and you can see her return from her out of body experience. It’s exquisite, and I am choked up, tears streaming down my face, and feeling the power of every word she thrust into our universe about how necessary it is for our souls to identify home.
If you’re at that moment in time where you’re ready to take a leap, identify your X-Factor, Listen…and Just. Do. It.