Once a leader pushes the pause button on his or her busy environment, the self-assessment can begin. To frame a personal perspective on current realities, it can be helpful to take a look around, and ask questions, such as:
- How am I feeling right now?
- What do I notice about how I am using my influence?
- Am I ok with the current results or outcome? Why or why not?
- How are others responding to my leadership approach?
Taking a self-assessment of the situation can provide a starting point for understanding the bigger picture. It can also help leaders identify underlying assumptions that have been guiding their own actions and examine whether or not these are helpful.
Step 02: Suspend Personal Judgment
Creating the time to pause and self-reflect is a critical step in the process of assessing reality, but it isn’t the only step. Often, when leaders realize they are not where they desire to be in relation to stated goals and objectives, they exhibit a tendency to jump into solving the problem.
Feeling uncomfortable can cause a rush into action. However, it is important to go through the full process of assessing reality and take in all the information before acting. This is because we use less information to make decisions than we think, and that can get us in trouble.
Choosing to suspend personal bias or judgment of the current state of affairs can help allow all the information to be considered.
Ed O’Brien, Associate Professor of Behavioral Science at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, puts it this way:
“People view the mind as a rational arbiter, assuming that they and others will withhold judgment until they finish flipping through all the evidence. But the mind isn’t just a passive information processor; it’s also emotional. In reality, once people begin to experience that evidence in real time, they will inevitably react to it as they go along. We won’t need to see later information if we already love or hate the very first piece.”
– Ed O’Brien
Step 03: Gather Relevant Information
Before taking a bearing, those participating in orienteering events look all around their surroundings for landmarks that could provide a clue to their current position. The more distinguishable features there are in the landscape, the easier it is for individuals to estimate their own location on the map in relation to known landmarks.
This idea works the same way when leading others.
Leaders aiming to assess reality should seek multiple sources of relevant information to carefully consider. Individual leaders should solicit feedback from team members and colleagues and also use a variety of quantitative and qualitative data points to get a more complete perspective of reality.
Servant Leaders do not wait for year-end performance reviews to get feedback on their own leadership. Instead, they seek input from others regarding difficult questions, such as:
- Are we accomplishing the goals and benchmarks we set out to achieve?
- Are we trending in the right direction?
- Are we going at the planned pace?
- What are my strengths and weaknesses as a leader?
- What could I do differently to improve the way I lead?