“Why try to be someone you’re not? Life is hard enough without adding impersonation to the skills required.” – Robert Brault
I recently conducted a 360 Feedback exercise with a Chief Executive. We met a number of times and completed some psychometrics. I interviewed his direct reports and chatted with a couple of outside stakeholders. So far, so normal. Conducting in-depth evaluations on executives is part of what we do.
Positive Evaluation: What was unusual was that fact that this turned into the most upbeat evaluation I’d completed in over 20 years. Now, no one goes unscathed. The exercise threw up some developmental issues that the CEO would have to work on. But these were small potatoes; the overall feedback was incredibly positive.
By its nature, most CEO’s face a number of conundrums – imposing headcount restrictions versus growing the organization, keeping a tight handle on pay while ensuring staff feel well rewarded and so on. Given these inevitable tensions, how did he fare so well? What was his secret?
Being Authentic: The red thread which ran through all of the feedback was the fact that the CEO was authentic. The real deal; nothing contrived or false. He had a couple of minor traits, which some staff found annoying, but his genuineness kept re-emerging. Everything was evaluated against this backdrop of authenticity. While he was aware of his own strengths and development needs, he was comfortable with who he had become. No drama. No attention seeking. Just a solid focus on what needed to be done. Perhaps he’d taken to heart the suggestion from Oscar Wilde: “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken”.
Mental Health: Self-acceptance is at the heart of strong mental functioning. Now, this is not meant to be a recipe for complacency or, worse-still, arrogance. None of us are off the hook in having to continually hone our skills if we want to remain in leadership roles. But we have to recognize that we are flawed diamonds. Focus on the solid foundation that exists, rather than beat yourself up on the imperfections.
Positive Psychology: Coaching is not some form of Humpty-Dumpty managerial exercise – an attempt to fix something which is fundamentally broken. Coaching is about finding out what’s already working well and building on this. And encouraging self-acceptance lies at the heart of this process. Ok, maybe you are not perfect (just yet). Maybe there is ‘stuff’ that you need to work on. So what? Join the long queue that the rest of us have formed under the imperfect banner. Cut yourself a bit of slack and embrace what’s good – rather than fixate on what’s broken or missing.
Bottom Line: If you are still in the market for a New Years resolution, self-acceptance is not a bad place to start. Have a good one!
Paul Mooney PhD.