Do you have ‘loving critics’ in your life?
Loving critics are people who love you, and also who are not afraid to tell you the truth about what they see in you, how you come across to others, and maybe even what you could do to improve.
We all need people like this in our lives.
They help us get out of ourselves and provide a realistic mirror in which we can develop a more accurate picture of who we are.
Along with introspection, getting accurate external feedback is a critical component to self-awareness.
People who are self-aware are better able to understand their feelings, understand why they do what they do, and make conscious decisions about how they want to behave. They understand their triggers, and their values. And, research shows that self-aware people are more effective leaders.
While we all likely believe we are self-aware, researchers estimate that only 10-15% actually are. Other research tells us that the more highly positioned a person is within their business, they are likely to believe they are more self-aware than they really are.
The more power people have, the more likely they are to have overconfidence in their own thinking and judgment. They are also less likely to seek out new or additional ideas. They will also have fewer people in a position to speak honestly and openly to them.
So, where does that leave those of you in leadership positions, and how can you garner accurate external feedback so your internal evaluation of yourself and how you actually come across are more aligned?
First, find those loving critics in your life and ask them to provide you open and honest feedback. To do this, you must be willing to hear it without defensiveness and in a spirit of gratitude and appreciation.
Second, ask those you supervise what you can do better, and what they appreciate about you. Again, you need to let go of defensiveness and really be curious. This feedback will allow you to be a better leader to those you supervise. Make it safe for them to speak, and express appreciation for their honesty.
Third, take the information you receive, and compare it to how you view yourself. Be curious about the differences you see. Make changes that you can. Many people seek external coaching to make changes they find more challenging, or to incorporate the feedback to become even more self-aware.
Finally, rinse and repeat.
Since we all change over time, this is a process that should be ongoing.
Also, seek out those loving critics when you feel stuck or when you find yourself reacting to situations in ways that are not helpful. Remember though—when you are stuck and frustrated is also when you are emotionally fragile. It is at times like these when getting honest feedback may hurt. So make sure you are gentle with yourself and others as you seek to better understand yourself.
No one is perfect. We all need to understand how closely our internal self-perception and our external persona align. And most especially, those of us in leadership positions.