Our Under the Rug series focuses on the importance of getting real with the not often talked about human emotions and unconscious responses (affects) that lead to true leadership self-awareness, employee awareness and customer awareness. We are advocates for going below the surface and doing the heavy lifting to activate real change within organizations from the inside out. Leaders, to employees, to customers.
I read an article recently about a study done by the Korn Ferry Institute, a global recruitment and organizational strategy firm, showing a significant positive correlation between the Rate of Return (ROR) for publicly traded companies and the amount of leadership self-awareness within that organization. Having done self-awareness work for many years with high level leaders and business owners and seeing the benefits on a micro level, the results didn’t surprise me. However, I was intrigued by the way Korn Ferry described and tested self-awareness.
They used blind spots. Granted their definition was in the context of skills, but the sentiment is the same when used to describe the “blind spots” I see most frequently in leaders, which are the blind spots of emotion and affect. If you’re unsure how emotions and affects are operating in your life, they are operating your life. That’s a blind spot.
The idea was interesting to me because I’ve seen many articles describing “self-awareness” as understanding what motivates you and how your mind works, but significantly fewer that define self-awareness as the understanding of how your inner-workings can cause you to overcorrect, fail or subconsciously hold yourself back as a leader. My hypothesis is that the idea of blind spots is not as sexy and is far more scary a topic than focusing on motivation points. The secondary part of that hypothesis, however, is that those who do not take time to understand and effectively correct for their blind spots are not truly self-aware and cannot reach their maximum potential as leaders.
This specific idea is what drew me to work with business leaders on the “V word.” Vulnerability. I know what you’re thinking: Yikes. Sounds heavy. Well, it most certainly can be, but I’ll argue that it’s that heavy, dirty work like with vulnerability, shame, courage and worthiness that truly causes breakthroughs in leadership. Many refer to self-awareness as going “under the hood.” For me, the most effective and holistic kind of self-awareness work is going “under the rug.” That rug where you sweep everything you don’t want others to see, but you still know the dirt is there.
This heavy but highly effective work is what I facilitate during my Daring Leadership™ 3-day intensive workshop coming up on November 13-15. Much of the curriculum for each day is based on in depth research by Dr. Brené Brown on vulnerability, shame and other emotions and affects that can hold us back, or feed our blind spots as leaders. It helps us understand those inner-workings and gives us tools to break through barriers they might cause. The work leads to true self-awareness that can be measured both in numbers (that study I mentioned before found poor-performing companies’ professionals were 79 percent more likely to have low overall self-awareness than those at firms with robust ROR) and in peace of mind for leaders dedicated to self-improvement and achieving full potential.