Looking in the Mirror

Valentine’s Day is the one day a year that is set aside for those who love us to tell us how much they love us and what they love about us. As we bask in the glow of these wonderful sentiments, we recognize that there are things that our loved ones don’t love so much about us.

When we lead others, in some ways, every day is Valentine’s Day. You see it’s very hard for those who report to us to tell us anything except what they love about us. It’s inherent in the system. We are the people who make key decisions that impact these people every day. We decide what assignments they get. We assess their performance and give them salary increases. We decide if they’re ready to be promoted and whether or not we’ll advocate for that. And human nature being what it is, people don’t want to ‘get on the bad side’ of the person who makes these decisions. So, while we’re expected to provide developmental feedback as part of the job, it doesn’t usually come our way from those who work for us.

That means when we think about our leadership performance we need to take a long, hard look in the mirror and ask ourselves, “If I worked for me, what would I be dying to tell myself but probably never say?” It’s a hard question, but one that we should really think about. One of the traps of success is that we begin to believe a little too much of our own press. At times, we forget that with success comes new challenges and with those challenge come new behaviors we need to exhibit and lessons we need to learn. We’re not always good at everything that is required of us in our job. We can become guarded about seeing things that don’t reinforce our successful vision of ourselves. Sometimes, those things we are guarding ourselves against, are what keep us from being as good a leader as we can be.

Give yourself and your people a Valentine. Look in the mirror and ask the hard question. Then commit to making a change so that next year when you ask the question, you have a different answer.

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