I worked for a Fortune 50 company and reported directly to the Chairman and CEO. That company made an enormous investment in my personal development, including a comprehensive psychological and leadership review. The assessment was optional and granted only to a handful of candidates in a company of 60,000. Outside psychologists interviewed my parents, childhood friends, wife and children, my brother, former colleagues, superiors, colleagues, and all those that reported to me. I was also given a battery of psychological tests. The results all rolled up into a major debriefing and coaching process, fed by six large bound reports. I have all of them in my home study, a dusty box in the corner of my closet but forever in my head.
This last weekend, almost 20 years later, I reread a lot of the material. So what can I take from this experience and share with you? For the record, I found it gratifying to reflect on much of what the people said regarding my positive impact on the company. But, here is what the data says I could have done better:
First, I had a challenge which was described as “clarity” of my content. Frankly I was not always crisp and clear in my communication. Explaining things in simple terms was my lowest score. I sometimes made things too darn complex! Using buzz words and jargon was occasionally used a personal safety net.
And second, I sometimes had too many things going on at one time. My vision, impatience for progress, and creativity became shortcomings when too many ideas and initiatives were pushed in parallel. This can feel overwhelming to some. Others may view this behavior as impulsive.
So my message, although very personal, is to consider the following:
- Seek out balanced feedback (strengths & shortcomings). People who care will tell us things in helpful ways. However, we have to be non-defensive and really listen. It can be difficult but will be ultimately rewarding.
- Make complex issues simple. Be clear and direct. Use language that the people really get. Fuzzy communicating is not helpful. People take mental vacations when we communicate like that. Fight being a perfectionist.
- Focus on what has the most leverage driving value for others. Less is often more. When we provide real value it’s because we’re listening and giving people what they really need, not what we think they need. This keeps us focused and more centered. It also keeps our egos in check.
Character Move: Make the complex simple and focus on the vital few. Find out how well you are doing that.
Psyched in Triangle,