About ten years ago, I led a team covering an enormous scope. We had three kids, four and under, while living abroad. And I had recently begun a graduate degree. It was a lot, but I could justify each one to myself.
But I felt the stress and would go for long walks to process and clear my head. On one of the walks, I had the thought, "If someone on my team was in the situation I was in, how would I coach them?" The answer was clear. I would encourage them to evaluate and find somewhere to cut back because they were overextended. It was the answer I knew but had been avoiding.
We don't see ourselves clearly, and thus we can make bad choices. It's easy to rationalize our own behavior, give ourselves the benefit of the doubt, ascribe negative observations to the environment. This dilemma is exaggerated for leaders.
This is a brief post for a brief exercise, but it's an exercise that can have a significant longstanding impact.
Ideally, you have someone ahead of you in their leadership journey to coach you and peers alongside you to reflect what they think. But the reality is, leaders don't always have this kind of community. So what can they do?
Here are three steps a leader can use to coach themself.
Now imagine someone came to you and told you about their friend and asked for advice. You can even role play here, reading out what you just wrote down. Now consider what questions you would want to ask to understand better or uncover critical details.
Now think about what advice you might give someone asking for a friend. Write down this advice. This step is the one that requires the most disciplined to try and stay impartial, viewing the situation from an outside perspective. This process isn't complicated, but it involves self-control not to try and game the system.
It's easy to rationalize our own behavior, give ourselves the benefit of the doubt, ascribe negative observations to the environment.
You want your life to have meaning and impact.
What if your everyday work and life not only felt natural and intuitive but also aligned with your priorities and positively impacted those around you?