Over time, leaders can forget how good they really are, but in these times of MAJOR DISRUPTION, that’s the last thing we should do!
I recently watched the movie The Help. One of the most poignant aspects of the film is the beautiful relationships the nannies have with the young girls they care for. I was particularly moved by Aibileen who regularly whispers to 2-year-old, baby Mae, “You is kind, you is smart, you is important.” She lovingly repeats this to Mae to ensure that this little girl develops self-confidence, knows her self-worth, and trusts in her ability to endure no matter what obstacles she encounters. Aibileen wants Mae to understand from a very young age how important it is to form a self-affirming mantra that she will carry with her through life.
In uncertain times, we can forget our strengths, which can make them blind spots of a whole different nature.
While it is critical for leaders to check their blind spots, sometimes those blind spots can be the strengths a leader may not be aware of. We don’t all have an Aibileen whispering in our ears telling us that we have what it takes to weather the storm. In uncertain times, we can lose sight of our strengths, which can make them blind spots of a whole different nature. Leaders are successful and resilient because their unique attributes and strengths propel them, but they can forget these elements for a number of reasons:
1. Invisible to Us - We become blind to our strengths as leaders because we blend them unconsciously.
2. On to the Next Thing - We are often too busy to take the time to appreciate them; we deal with one issue, and we’re immediately on to the next one. In a crisis, this is intensified because we go into reaction mode, making decisions at lightning speed, allowing no time for reflection on our own contributions. We’re legitimately only analysing the results.
3. Invisible to Others - We become less aware of our positive traits when we are not be getting any feedback from others on them, often because our colleagues and peers see them so frequently that they don’t stand out anymore.
4. Share the Spotlight - We hide or temper them in an effort to allow others to shine.
5. Negative Inner "Chatter" - We set high standards for ourselves and therefore spend a lot of time criticising ourselves when we make a mistake, miss the mark or don’t attain “perfection.” This tends to be what we remember; it drives us to be better, but it also takes mental discipline to override the chatter.
The danger is, if we are not reminded of these unique characteristics and strengths we possess, we may not use them when it’s most needed. We may also start to question our abilities and resiliency, especially in the face of adversity.
How do we conjure our own Aibileen to affirm that we have what it takes to make the right decisions in the right moment?
1. Take time to celebrate your accomplishments – Whether by daily journaling or reviewing your day’s successes on the 30-minute commute home, you’ve got to appreciate the moments when you did the right thing.
2. Ask others for feedback – This can be tricky since you do not want to come across as though you’re fishing for compliments, but you do want to know the good things that people might be noticing. You could try asking the question, “Were there things you noticed that I did today that I should be doing more of within the team?” or “Was there anything you saw me do with that client that we could replicate with other clients?” or “What should I make sure I don't forget from that meeting that I need to repeat in other meetings?”
3. Give and Get Recommendations on LinkedIn – It’s quite acceptable nowadays to ask people you trust and have experienced you at your best to write a brief recommendation on LinkedIn for you. Lead by example and take the step to write one for them, if possible, but don’t be shy about asking people. Most will be flattered that you asked. Just be sure to thank them sincerely when their recommendations show up in your notifications and be sure TO READ THEIR REMARKS REGULARLY. Recommendations from those whom you respect are great reminders of why you are valued.
4. Share “Hero’s Journeys” – Just like heroes from history, literature, and movies, leaders have their own “crucible stories” of fighting through harsh adversity to arrive at a transformed, new beginning. It’s inspiring and comforting for people to hear these stories in times of uncertainty as it brings hope and faith back into focus. It also reinforces to your people that they’re following the right person. Most important, those stories encourage us to reacquaint ourselves with our own potential to make a big impact. Don’t forget these journeys. Share them with others to inspire and provide comfort. Make a note of what you tapped into and learned in order to handle adversity. And, finally, remind yourself that you have what it takes to rise to the challenge.
There’s a saying related to blind spots with respect to our unique assets – “Untapped attributes are like sundials in the shade.” If we are unconscious of the skills we hold in moments like these when they are needed, we might miss the opportunity to make a lasting impact with our actions and potentially change lives.
Now, make it a point to remind yourself what you are truly capable of, especially in this time when heroic leadership is needed. The fact is, you are strong, you are wise and you are resilient.
Steven Giordano is an Associate at Impact Americas. Check out his website here.