Tag Archives: Self-awareness

Taylor Swift on Six Ways to Increase Self-Awareness

taylor swift bannerWant to solve most of your leadership issues with one competency? It’s not intelligence, technical skills, or flexibility, although these would be nice. We need to focus on self-awareness.

The ability to understand who we are is in surprisingly short supply. Meta-analyses of over 357,000 people in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science found an average correlation of .29 between self-evaluations and objective assessments. This is extremely low considering a correlation of 1.0 indicates total accuracy, and it is even lower for work-related skills. Thankfully, Taylor Swift can rescue us from our lack of self-clarity.

As a father of two girls, I live in a Swiftie household where Taylor Swift music is on constant rotation. I am not complaining (unlike the two year Frozen marathon they subjected me to), and I tend to enjoy her music. Swift serves as a positive role model, managing to balance intelligence, fun, and self-deprecation. With every action, it is clear Swift has a healthy dose of self-awareness. She spoke about this in an interview with GQ magazine:

When other kids were watching normal shows, I’d watch Behind the Music. And I would see these bands that were doing so well, and I’d wonder what went wrong. I thought about this a lot. And what I established in my brain was that a lack of self-awareness was always the downfall. That was always the catalyst for the loss of relevance and the loss of ambition and the loss of great art. So self-awareness has been such a huge part of what I try to achieve on a daily basis. It’s less about reputation management and strategy and vanity than it is about trying to desperately preserve self-awareness, since that seems to be the first thing to go out the door when people find success.

Not sure whether you want to take advice from Ms. Swift? Consider the business facts. A Harvard Business Review study found that teams with less self-aware individuals made worse decisions, engaged in less coordination, and showed less conflict management. In fact, just being surrounded by self-awareness-challenged teammates cut the chances of team success in half. Additionally, the paper A Better Return on Self-Awareness found that 1) employees of poor-performing companies were 79% more likely to have low overall self-awareness, and 2) companies with the greater percentage of self-aware employees maintained consistently higher stock prices.

Self-awareness is not a soft skill, a nice-to-have. It’s playing out in your bottom line. This is about leadership effectiveness.—Dana Landis, co-author of A Better Return on Self-Awareness

To become a self-aware rock star, Swift was able to study VH1 bio pics. To become a self-aware leader, try these six strategies:

Take a personality test. Whether it’s the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), DiSC, Birkman Method, or Predictive Index, a self-assessment is a good place to start on your path towards self-knowledge.

Participate in a 360-degree assessment. This is a beneficial way to collect anonymous truths from those around you. For a little extra fun, compare their responses to your own.

Link self-awareness to success. If you are trying to increase the self-awareness of those on your team, you need to communicate why the capabilities are relevant. Research shows that when individuals see learning as valuable to their careers, they’re more motivated and are more willing to apply new skills to their roles.

Remain open to advice. Harvard’s Sheila Heen states that three main triggers prevent our learning: relationship triggers, identity triggers, and truth triggers. Tackle these triggers and decrease your chances of getting defensive.

Get a coach. A talented, trained coach can cut through your veneer to match who you think you are with who you actually are.

Ask for feedback. If this seems simple, that’s because it is. There are plenty of people who are anxious to tell you about yourself. All you have to do is ask.

Swift was right when she said that self-awareness “seems to be the first thing to go out the door when people find success.” We must shake off the delusions of cloudy, misinformed self-realization and strive to be in touch with who we are now. We can then leverage our potential through asserting our strengths, addressing our vulnerabilities, adjusting to the realities of our circumstances, and becoming a card-carrying member of the Swiftie army.

Pros and Cons of Accurate Self-Awareness with Dean “The Grinder” Sanderson

the grinder2My favorite new show season has been The Grinder. Starring Rob Lowe and Fred Savage, it follows a triumphantly successful actor who returns to his hometown after years of portraying a lawyer on a fictitious television show. His acting experience has somehow given him the idea he is qualified to work in his family’s real-life law firm.

The premise The Grinder may seem unlikely, but is it? How often do overly confidently yet obliviously under qualified people rise in the ranks? Recent research explored this very topic to determine the effect self-awareness has on leadership.

In a study of 69,000 managers utilizing 360-degree feedback of 750,000 respondents, leaders’ views of themselves didn’t generally fit with how other people perceived them. This may not be surprising; after all, it is not uncommon to have a misaligned view of ourselves. What is surprising is that a leader who possesses a highly accurate view of their abilities does not necessarily result in higher ratings of leadership. In an unexpected finding,

…the most effective leaders did not have the highest level of self-awareness. Indeed, the more they underrated themselves, the more highly they were perceived as leaders.

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The leadership study also found that those with more underrated skill areas were perceived as being twice as effective as those with more overrated areas—underrated leaders were seen as having a higher probability of strengths and a lower probability of fatal flaws. This then resulted in a more engaged workforce.

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This coincides with another study where therapists who doubted themselves appeared to be more effective at helping their clients. A combination of professional self-doubt and personal self-compassion led to a more open, self-reflective stance thus allowing the therapist to appreciate the complexity of their work while remaining more flexible in their strategies.

The advantages to underrating yourself may stem from an increased sense of humility, higher standards, a lack of self-satisfaction, and/or a drive towards perfection. These are all areas where we have some control. They are directly linked to success in leadership and in life and, since there is no end-goal, each merits continuous work. It is like Dean Sanderson said on an episode of The Grinder,

What makes the Grinder, the Grinder, is that he never gets by on just being the Grinder, he proves it. Every second, every day, with every decision.

Ron Perlman and the Positive Effect of Leaders’ Self-Sacrifice

ron perlmanWhen I think of self-sacrifice, I often picture that scene in a movie where the soldier sees his friends in trouble, grabs a few weapons, and runs into the line of fire. It is heroic, inspiring, and has little resemblance to our everyday lives. Yet, we seem to relate to the idea of putting ourselves in dangerous situations to protect others. Ron Perlman has played many characters who demonstrate these traits.

Ron Perlman is an actor famous for his role in Hellboy and the television series Sons of Anarchy and Beauty and the Beast. While each of these parts is distinctive, they all involve some degree of altruism to protect a loved one. In a discussion on the Nerdist podcast, Ron offered his views on self-sacrifice.

I’m fascinated by the notion of self-sacrifice, the notion of dropping everything for a cause that’s bigger than you. Of becoming animated for reasons that could f—k you, could be your undoing, but they are so big and so important and so much larger than your everyday life, that there’s not even a question about it.

Self-sacrifice is commonly associated with our karma-driven need to do the right thing do. When we choose to sacrifice ourselves, we are making a conscious effort to help someone else in spite of the cost. These altruistic actions often involve risk, discomfort, and consequences that are not always favorable. However, when we believe in a cause and feel justified in our actions, it is easily worth the exposure.

What we don’t’ typically consider is the effect our self-sacrifice has on those on our team. According to a study by Yeon Choia and Renate Mai-Dalton, followers attribute charisma and legitimacy to self-sacrificial leaders in addition to an enhanced perception of transformational qualities. Such leaders are more influential than those who do not exhibit these behaviors and, even more intriguing, observers reciprocate the leader’s altruistic mannerisms.

As the research shows, if you want a workplace culture that values team work and an altruistic mentality, it starts with you. Model the behaviors you want to see. You want to see extra effort? Sacrifice your time to help others. You want to see risk taking? Sacrifice your ego by being transparent in the chances you take, demonstrating both the good and the bad outcomes. You want a team who supports one another? Sacrifice your reputation by standing up for those who choose to follow you.

Next time you have opportunity to abandon or postpone your personal interests for the interests of others, consider the effects your altruism can have not just on those you are helping, but on those who will see you helping. Self-preservation may keep you safe, but self-sacrifice will ensure you have a clear conscience and an army of do-gooders.


David Bowie on Impression Management

David Bowie Aladdin SaneHow many times have you heard the adage, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression?” If this is true, then I don’t think anyone told David Bowie. This iconic musician has been reinventing himself for over forty years.

In 1969, David Bowie found acclaim with the hit song “Space Oddity.” This could have been the beginning of David’s career. Instead, he ditched “David Bowie” and took on the character of Ziggy Stardust, the self-proclaimed ultimate rock star wearing leotards, makeup, an eye patch, and spikey red hair. According to David,

Ziggy was half out of sci-fi rock and half out of the Japanese theater. The clothes were, at that time, simply outrageous. Nobody had seen anything like him before.

david bowie ziggy stardustZiggy was hugely successful; selling millions of records and concert tickets. Then, as quickly as Ziggy appeared, David shelved that persona for Aladdin Sane, a detached, cool hipster with a lightning bolt painted on his face. David’s ability to create new and original characters has continued ever since – Thin White Duke, Jareth the Goblin King, the Regular Dude with a Regular Dude Band, etc. Each identity has been a reinvention of David with distinctly different music, clothing, and stage presence. Selling 134 million albums, earning two dozen top ten songs, and performing over 5,000 concerts, we can see the power of successfully applied impression management.

Without taking on a completely different persona, which would certainly cause some confusion in the office, a proficiency in impression management is a necessary skill for each of us. Impression management is our ability to influence how we are perceived by others. It has a powerful effect on the opportunities we are afforded, the ways we are treated, and our ultimate success.

David Bowie thinwhiteduke2Perception often trumps reality. If you are perceived as smart and capable, you’ll be on the executive fast track. If you are perceived as dimwitted or unmotivated, you will remain in the lower echelon of the organizational hierarchy. This may not seem fair, but we are all guilty of letting our perceptions shape opinions of others. It is a basic human behavior.

The good news is that we can actively change, update, and/or tweak our image. Here are a few tips to help you manage your impression:

Get introspective. Ask yourself, 1) “how do people currently perceive me,” and 2) “how do I want them to perceive me.” This gap analysis will show you the aspects of yourself that need some work and what you are trying to accomplish.

Live it. The goal of impression management is to establish and maintain an impression that is congruent with the perceptions you want to convey. Therefore, it begins with presenting yourself as the person you wish to be. Want to be management material? Stop hanging out at the water cooler and start brainstorming ways you can improve the organization. Want to be taken seriously? Stop mumbling and speak with self-assurance. You have to live it before others will treat you that way.

Be sincere. Impression management is not about tricking others into believing something that is not true. The idea is to present the best version of yourself. If you feel that you are losing yourself, stop! Go back to your original goals and figure out where you may have strayed.

Remain Positive. A good impression is based on exuding positive energy. Smiling mixed with complimenting, praising, and treating others respectfully is the best way to promote and enforce your “new” image. Positivity needs to be spread around to everyone, regardless of their position, degree of influence, or apparent ability to affect your career. This will help you avoid the slime effect, a negative impression that occurs when people are exceedingly nice to their superiors but treat subordinates condescendingly.

With each of his unique images, David Bowie showed another side of himself. You can dismiss it as performance art, but David was aware that the way he looked and presented himself would influence the way we heard and perceived his music (“Starman” would not have been as evocative if David had been in a tuxedo). Your appearance, communication, and general demeanor have the same control over how others see you. You don’t need David’s spandex red velvet pants…but who am I to say what impression you are trying to make.