Last week I asked the question, “Do you love others enough to admit when you are wrong?”
Answering this question positively helps a leader become someone worth following. It also helps them do things with and through other people, which is the process of leadership.
This week’s question provides similar benefits if we take it seriously. It is:
Do you love yourself enough to find out what you do not want to know about yourself?
If this feels uncomfortable, that’s okay — it’s supposed to. And to get the most out of the answer, it makes sense to first address the second part of the question: what DON’T you want to know about yourself?
For me, it runs the gamut:
- I don’t want to know what irritates other people at work
- I don’t want to know my blind spots
- I don’t want to know the specific things I say and do that annoy Sarah
- I don’t want to know what annoys my kids — especially once they become teenagers and are experts on everything!
Do You Want Feedback or Feedback Lite?
As I read what I’ve written above, I can sense some of you saying, “Not me. I really want to know those things!” If that’s the case, that’s great! Either you’re more mature than I am and actually want to know ALL of that, or you know that saying you want to know that stuff is the right thing to say.
But most of us (me included) say that we want feedback, but what we mean is something more along the lines of feedback lite. In other words, “I want to know all the things that I ALREADY know about myself, and maybe one or two things other that are not too offensive. But, definitely not everything.”
How can I tell I don’t want to hear the above items? Because I react poorly when they are unsolicitedly shared with me. Or am I the only one who doesn’t handle it well when my wife points out one of my faults on a day when I’m tired, and work was a beast?
Seriously, am I the only one that handles that poorly?
Getting Feedback to Get Better
If I really love myself, I want to get better. This involves hearing things about myself that I do not want to hear — even when the feedback comes when I haven’t asked for it.
I like simple ideas, so here is one to start the process of hearing things you do not want to hear about yourself:
- Share the topic of this post — that you need to hear things about yourself that you probably do not want to hear so that you can improve as a person.
- Guarantee that there will be no repercussions or fallout (and stick to it!)
- Ask that they be gentle but uncomfortably honest.
- Then ask, “How am I doing as your [fill in the blank]? What can I do better?”
Who should you ask? Here’s a list to get you started:
- Direct report
- Spouse (or best friend)
- Child(ren) / another family member
These people will unlock insights about you that will help you become a better person.
They Call it the “Painful” Truth for a Reason
Learning this about yourself may not feel good in the moment, but it is the actual loving thing to do. I say this with confidence because it will change you for the better.
Before closing, I want to remind you that it’s crucial to analyze and interpret the feedback you receive — someone’s opinion of you is not gospel, it’s just their opinion. Listen to what they share and find the truth behind it.
Leaning into what you do not want to hear is admittedly not fun. It is often painful. But it is also often the place where transformation begins.
If you want what is best for yourself, seek out what you do not want to hear about yourself. You will become a better person and, by default, a better leader.