#1 Cost Effective Method for Self Development

I  just returned this week from a wonderful vacation … the most relaxed I’ve been in a long time! Being away gave me an opportunity for a bit of think-time and reminded me of how important it is to make time for self-reflection.

Bora Bora view

Self -reflection = Self-awareness – it’s one of those key characteristics strong leaders possess, yet is often undervalued.

Why is it such a game-changer? Because, in the words of the great Maya Angelou, “When you know better you do better.”

In my coaching practice, I often begin an engagement by conducting some sort of assessment to gather feedback about the individual with whom I’m coaching via interviews or use an online assessment tool. Feedback is solicited from the person’s boss, peers, direct reports and others who have worked closely with the individual. For many, it’s the first time they’ve received this level of feedback and it’s usually eye-opening.

Here’s why it’s important:

  • The individual now has a picture of how they are perceived by others.
  • Strengths and weaknesses can be identified.
  • Blind spots are revealed so that now there is an understanding where the gaps are between the as-is and desired goals.

In some cases the remedies to address these gaps are quick fixes, (e.g., “Please prepare agendas for our weekly team meetings and send out a day ahead of time.”) Easy … DONE! But until now, the individual had no idea it was an issue for people.

Let’s face it, not everyone is comfortable sharing feedback, particularly to their boss, without some sort of formal process for giving that feedback.

But let’s say there is no formal process or the opportunity to work with a coach who will collect this type of feedback. The other no-cost way to get feedback is to simply ASK FOR IT. Not everyone is going to feel like they can be completely honest when initially asked. However, by making it a habit and, in the absence of any retribution, others will get used to the idea that genuine input is being requested and will offer it freely.

Added bonus – by doing this, an example is set for soliciting feedback and others may very well follow that lead, which establishes a learning culture and self-development environment. Both having huge benefits to any organization!

So collecting feedback is the first step, now it’s time for a little self-reflection to process and make sense of the feedback, then come up with an action plan to address areas of concern.

Self-reflection Approaches:

  • Keep a journal – take time each day to reflect on what happened and assess how the interactions went throughout the day. Maybe answer questions like: “What went well today?”; “What didn’t go as well as I wanted?” and “What did I learn from the experiences of the day?” This type of reflection offers an opportunity to gain an objective perspective.
  • Analyze your triggers – when a behavior is viewed as a weakness, observe what’s happening that triggers that behavior and motivates it’s continued use. “In what situations does it happen?”; “Is there a person, or type of person that provokes it?”; “What is the motivation for using that behavior?”
  • Consciously think about lessons learned – before diving into a tricky situation, reflect on what did/didn’t work well in a past similar situation. For example, the triggers have been identified so when one of those triggers occurs, think about what the replacement behavior will be and prepare to react differently.

Self-awareness is one of those development tools that is always at your disposal and doesn’t cost a penny. So turn on the lights, look in the mirror and devote a bit of time for your own development.

Martha Duesterhoft is a Partner with PeopleResults. Follow her on Twitter @mduesterhoft or connect via email at mduesterhoft@www.people-results.com.