Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Building Resilient Leaders by Embracing Failure



Winston Churchill once said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” In other words, be resilient.

In today’s ever-changing, highly competitive and sometimes brutal world of business, leaders are called upon to “keep going” even in the face of monumental failure. And although it may seem like hell, experiencing failure and developing the skills and strength to forge through it, builds resilience, and ultimately leads to success.

What is a resilient leader?
A resilient leader is someone who sees failure as a learning opportunity. They are able to manage ambiguity, and readily adapt to changing circumstances and requirements. Resilient leaders tend to have a growth mindset, meaning that they realize they are still learning, embrace challenges, persist in the face of setbacks, and see efforts as a pathway to mastery. The opposite of this is a fixed mindset. Someone with a fixed mindset is not open to learning – they believe they already know it all. They are all about “looking smart,” and they avoid challenges and obstacles that might prove otherwise. They avoid negative feedback, even when it might be useful. 

Resilient leaders:
Look for the positive. Resilient leaders focus on the positive in people and in situations. They don’t overlook or ignore potential downsides or issues, but spend their energy on workarounds and solutions rather than worrying about what might go wrong.

See failure as an opportunity. Resilient leaders learn from their mistakes. They reframe failure as another opportunity to get it right, or as a sign they need to take an alternative approach.

Are coachable. Resilient leaders seek and act upon feedback. They admit their mistakes and model an attitude of learning from those mistakes. This, in turn, helps individuals on their team be more willing to risk trying something new.

Manage adversity. Resilient leaders are able to push through adversity and resistance. They figure out a way to overcome problems, and they get back up when they fall. Every time. The difference between those who succeed and those who don’t often comes down to a moment in time – when they want to give up, but instead kick through the wall of resistance and find what they are looking for right on the other side.

Get outside their comfort zone. Resilient leaders recognize that to overcome adversity and break through any barriers that may be preventing them from moving forward, they need to push themselves beyond their comfort level.  

Champion change. Resilient leaders embrace change and are able to provide the leadership and motivation for others to join them in adapting to the change. They provide a clear vision, and through their confidence they inspire others to work toward that vision.

How to build resilient leaders in your organization
In addition to helping your leaders develop the above characteristics, provide them with this framework to help build their resilience. 


When a project or deadline fails, explore these three options each time.  If you are in the business of growing leaders, review this with them in your next coaching or review meeting with them:
  1. What went wrong?
  2. What would you change next time?
  3. What early signs would be your markers next time for adjustments? 

 “The greatest glory in living lies not in never failing, but in rising every time we fail.” – Nelson Mandela

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

How Self-Aware Are You?



Research shows that leaders who are self-aware are more effective. And their teams and organizations are more successful. But what does self-awareness really mean, and how accurate are we in assessing our own self-awareness?

Self-awareness is one of the key components of emotional intelligence, which are: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. The study of self-awareness originated in 1972, when psychologists Shelley Duval and Robert Wicklund proposed their theory that: “when we focus our attention on ourselves, we evaluate and compare our current behavior to our internal standards and values. We become self-conscious as objective evaluators of ourselves.”

In an interview with Knowledge@Wharton, Organizational Psychologist Tasha Eurich, said that self-awareness is made up of two types of knowledge: 1) seeing ourselves clearly, our strengths, our weaknesses, what we value, and what we aspire to do, and 2) knowing how other people see us. Although she has found in her work that quite a few people have one or the other types of self-awareness, “people who have both types of self-knowledge and balance them are the ones who are the most successful at work and in life.”

How accurate are we in assessing our own self-awareness? Eurich’s research shows that “95% of people think they’re self-aware, but the real number is closer to 10-15%.”

Overestimating our own ability at something is a pretty common phenomenon. It’s known as the Dunning-Kruger effect, a “cognitive bias in which relatively unskilled persons suffer illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability to be much higher than it really is.” An example is the survey where people were asked to rate their own driving ability and 7 out of 10 said that they were above average drivers. You only have to be on the road for a few minutes to realize that’s an exaggeration. People judge their driving by their own standards – “I haven’t gotten ticket so I must be a great driver.” Without feedback (a ticket or an accident) people may continue in their good-driver illusion. Likewise, without feedback, leaders may continue to think they are self-aware, and not see the need to continue to learn and grow. That’s where 360 tools and assessments, such as Lumina Spark, can help. Understanding how others see you can help you identify blind spots, and adjust behaviors that may be working against you.

Yet Eurich cautions against getting too hung up on one side of the equation.  There are some people with those two types of self-awareness who are so focused on how other people see them that they’re actually not acting in their own best interests. They don’t even know what they want out of life, for example. That’s just another reason that we have to balance both of those types of self-awareness.”

Leaders who are truly self-aware acknowledge that they don’t know everything. That they’re not perfect. They build trust with their teams by allowing themselves to be vulnerable, and by accepting team members’ ideas, input and feedback.

One of the things I found most surprising in Eurich’s interview was what she said about self-awareness at higher levels in the organization. “The research shows that the more powerful you are, the more senior you are, and even the older you are as a manager, the less self-aware you’re likely to be, which I find shocking,” she said.  

Self-awareness is important not just at work, but also in our personal lives. When we’re self-aware we make better decisions. We build stronger relationships. We’re more successful.

And the good news is, self-awareness is something we can develop and improve!

Lumina Spark is an innovative, comprehensive and realistic approach to self-understanding that is based on the latest academic research in the “Big 5” personality traits as well as certain elements of Jungian theory. Lumina Spark looks at 8 aspects and 24 qualities, and measures these along a continuum to create a unique portrait for each individual. And it goes deeper.  Each quality is measured for three personas:

  1. Your Underlying persona – who you are most naturally
  2. Your Everyday persona – how you “show up” based on what’s required of you at work
  3. Your Overextended persona – how you behave under stress

Attaining self-awareness by understanding your strengths and development areas in each of these personas is powerful.  It helps you understand how you lead, how you behave under stress, and how you respond to situations and people around you. This knowledge enables you to leverage and adapt behaviors as necessary to lead your team and organization to success.

“By becoming self-aware, you gain ownership of reality; in becoming real, you become the master of both inner and outer life.” – Deepak Chopra