Leaders: Is Your Own Self-Assessment Holding You Back?

How can leaders get a more realistic self-assessment?How can leaders get a more realistic self-assessment?

Earlier this week, we talked about the critical emotional intelligence capability of self-awareness. I got several notes asking if it’s possible that you don’t read yourself accurately. In a word, yes.

Many entrepreneurs struggle with their ability to accurately read their own strengths and weaknesses. The challenge is to increase your self-assessment capabilities.

Your self-assessment capability can be the difference between building a good company or a great one. To become the best leader you can be you must have an accurate self-assessment. You must be open to others’ feedback. You will also need to collect good feedback from your team.

There are several reasons leaders don’t assess their skills correctly.  From an early age we are raised to believe the more strengths we have, the higher likelihood of success in our given profession. Many entrepreneurs feel the best leaders are great at many things. This is the exception not the rule. Great leaders focus on what they do well and then continue expanding their growth in this strategic competency. This limited focus allows them to become part of the top 5% in what they do well. A leader functioning in the top 5% in a critical capability can lift an organization to incredible success.

From my consulting with many leaders who have grown their businesses beyond the 100 million dollar revenue level, many have become deep specialists in one to three key strengths. They are very good at these things and they align with the skills required to lead their markets. Depending on the industries and markets you serve, these strengths may be similar to many of the markets leaders. To become a stronger leader you will need to add others’ strengths to your leadership team.

Don’t be afraid to determine the critical success factors in your industry and then go about developing them if you want to move your organization to the next level. Industries and clients’ needs change and successful entrepreneurs who remain flexible become successful faster. When was the last time you added new capabilities to your organization and your leadership team? Market leaders are good at changing the way their markets partner with their organizations.

To reach beyond the billion dollar revenue mark and beyond, entrepreneurs need to narrow their key strengths to one or two capabilities.  They then must build leadership teams around themselves who have complementary capabilities. To do this, they must accurately evaluate their own strengths and weaknesses. In this case, less is more when trying to build a high performance organization. More importantly, they must be able to identify these key traits in other leaders. To reach and stay at the top of your markets, you must be able to attract great people to your team. Attracting people is the easy part for a winning organization, retaining them over the long term is critical for the organization’s long term success.

Most billionaire business leaders are very good at identifying the raw talent required to excel in a given business. They are very clear on what skills are required to continue growing increasing profits and revenue. I’ll share a secret with you; most billionaire business leaders are very good at find hidden strengths within their team members. Many of their strongest team members are identified before they realize they possess these critical strengths. The billionaire business leader is able to cultivate these critical strengths in others.

Great leaders are very candid with what they can and can’t do well. This provides them the opportunity to attract and grow complementary capabilities from their teams. Unlike many large corporations, the entrepreneur leading a midmarket organization becomes an expert at developing his people through practical experiences on the job. They don’t have time to learn through many formal education systems. I call this process just in time learning or coaching. You would be amazed at how well it works for my clients.

Peter Drucker used to say most leaders fail not because of what they do, but because they fail to stop doing the things they shouldn’t. I believe this is because it is very hard for an entrepreneur to believe they can’t do everything well, given enough time. If I asked you right now to tell me three things you don’t do well, how would you answer? If I ask you for five things you are good at, I bet you can come up with them very easily.  If you don’t believe me, ask you team the same question. Wait for an answer, do some push back on what they say. You’ll see how quickly most people around you change their answers or even back away from the ones they first gave you. This can change your self-assessment.

Most CEO and Managing Directors get very little candid feedback from their team members. As leaders, we are never trained on how to get candid, straight forward feedback from our peers and subordinates. If we want an accurate self-assessment, we must create an environment of trust where individuals can give and receive feedback for all aspects of their leadership.

Finally, ask yourself the last time you laughed about something you were involved in. With all the challenges facing leaders today, very few leaders use humor to diffuse stressful situations. People are more comfortable working with people who don’t take themselves or the situation to seriously.

I can hear several of you grumbling right now that what you do is very serious stuff. We must be taken seriously to be effective.  Get over yourself! I had one of my medical clients share his secret of successfully using humor. When faced with a serious situation he would ask himself compared to what is this serious. He was incredible heart surgeon.  When leading his medical practice, if things got out of control, he would ask himself, how serious is this compared to the many difficult situations he found himself in on a regular basis. It would make him smile and laugh to himself and then he would move on. Not bad advice.

It’s critical you become accurate in your own self-assessment.  Hopefully, I’ve shared some ideas on what may be impacting your own inaccurate self-assessment.  Over the next several weeks, we will share some ideas on how to improve this critical skill.  See you next week.

About the Author

Tripp Braden partners with clients to create an anticipatory strategy and mindset. The resulting culture breaks down barriers to combine planning and innovation in a way that elevates and accelerates results.

He’s a growth strategist and IBM IoT Futurist who turns strategy into implementable options for increasing market share, revenue, and profits. He has proven success seeing the big picture and creating new market opportunities.

Ask Tripp how to turn disruption and change into your opportunity and advantage.

Tripp can be contacted at [email protected] or send him an invite on LinkedIn. You can find Tripp’s journal on growing your organization at Market Leadership Journal.

Tripp Braden – who has written posts on Developing High Performing Teams.


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