Most people believe that knowing yourself – all your strengths and weaknesses – is a positive thing. After all, being familiar with who you are and how you operate is the foundation of emotional intelligence.
And yet, there are plenty of people who go through their careers in willful blindness, absent of any audit of their own attributes and capabilities. Not advisable, but hardly surprising. Why? Well, do we really enjoy being dissected, analyzed, prodded and probed? Do we really want to have a full picture of ourselves?
No – because it’s not pleasant!
Like the rest of us, there are certain skills that you haven’t fully mastered yet and you’d find it a bit embarrassing if they came under the public spotlight. You have frailties you’d rather not highlight, and experiences you’d prefer to ‘brush under the carpet’. The world doesn’t need to know all your personal hang ups. After all, you’re pretty good at what you do, right?
And then, of course, you look around you and notice your colleagues and friends seem better constructed than you. They don’t suffer the same doubts you do; or show the same frailties or failures you’re feeling. They’re so much more confident and together. Think again!
At Morgan Philips, our Agility model takes three dimensions into consideration: People Agility, Performance Agility & Growth Agility – within People Agility sits the need for Insight.
Insight is knowing yourself well enough to regulate your behaviour in order to leverage your strengths and accommodate for your weaknesses. It’s also about your awareness of others’ capabilities and emotional states. To read more about how Agility can unlock the potential of Individuals and Teams, click here.
- People Agility: Understanding self and others, and acting with empathy and interpersonal insight to achieve results ("empathy and emotional intelligence")
- Performance agility: Dealing with pressure, being resilient, flexing and adapting plans to meet objectives
- Growth Agility: Openness to learn from experience and drive for improvements ("fixed/growth mindset")
Acknowledging and understanding our own inner critic
Nature appears to have put the critical mind as the default position ahead of the encouraging mind, which unfortunately means most of us are our own worst critics.
As such, it’s you that has to carry the load of all your minor concerns and shortfalls around with you. You know these things better than anyone, often things you dare not share with others. So in our heads we can tie ourselves up in knots! – ‘They see I can’t do it’ – I’m an idiot, ‘They think I’m great, when I don’t have a clue’ – I’m an imposter!
Or maybe you’re a ‘learning junkie’ – absorbed and fascinated by what gets replayed to you from colleagues, through psychometrics, or in workshops and training sessions. Beware your thirst for constant feedback. Check honestly with yourself that it’s not you as the focus of attention that’s the fascination. Perhaps your ‘safe space’ for learning is getting a bit too safe if the corrective action necessary for you to move forward is not forthcoming.
The solution: take the rough with the smooth
So what’s the antidote? How can we have a level of insight that supports what we’re trying to achieve?
In order to develop, you need constructive criticism on what you’re doing, and you’ll need people you trust to deliver it – people who can celebrate your successes and pinpoint areas for improvement. The person who does BOTH these things in equal measure is acting as an authentic ‘trusted advisor’ who’s really ‘in your corner’. To find this, you might need to provide feedback in return.
- Try giving peer feedback – this is an easy way to take the sting or awkwardness out of the situation
- Ask for balanced feedback – something positive and something to work on. How about something to stop doing, something to start doing and something to continue doing?
When taking on board feedback, here are some suggestions to manage yourself:
- Be compassionate – when you’re thinking about what could have gone better, also bear in mind what went well. We learn from our successes as well as our mistakes
- Try not to compare yourself with others, but rather try and be a better version of yourself every day
- Don’t just think about developing yourself - make changes! Focusing on actions will reduce your concerns for your weaker areas and steadily build your confidence
- Think big and change small – work on small incremental changes with your broader goals in mind. Build up your consistency, make positive change a habit and watch how those positive changes breed new ones organically
Don’t forget, knowing yourself doesn’t mean you’ve got it all figured out. People are complex, and so are you! There’s a whole load going on inside your brain that’s churning away - some of which is driving you forward and some of which is pulling you back.
Think of it more in terms of knowing where you are right now, in relation to where you’ve come from and where you’ve targeted yourself towards.
Insight is not about having your house in perfect order, but rather that you’re clear that tidying needs to be done, and you can identify where it’s needed most.
Build your Insight little and often, and you will Respond to others with greater ease and effectiveness.