Who Knows You Better Than You?

Accountability Authenticity


Key Point: The biggest gift you can get in your career are people (coaches) who care deeply enough to give you an honest mirror. One type of coach focuses on performance. This person helps you perform better for the organization. You are shown ways to give more value as determined by the needs of the system you’re working in. Another coach is more of a personal development guide. This person helps you develop and achieve personal goals by helping you exploit your talents. The same individual rarely serves both these roles. Both development activities are important and while they are different, they are also normally related. The fact is most of us, based on science, just can’t do it alone. Other people are necessary to complete our self-understanding. We just don’t know ourselves well enough…As hard as we try. The research shows other people know us better than we do on our own. Read on to learn more.

In his book Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious, psychologist Timothy Wilson summarizes decades of research on what he calls our “adaptive unconscious.” He shows us just how much of what we do during every moment of every day happens below our conscious awareness. This includes what we think, how we feel, the goals we pursue and the actions we take. Some of it we can notice if we engage in a little self-reflection, but much of it is not directly accessible to us at all. If you want all the fascinating science please read the book. The way our brain works is a blessing and sometimes a curse regarding deep self-awareness.

When we struggle, the data suggests that we most often blame ourselves based on our ability. Yup… Most of us think we just “don’t have it.” Yet research by scientists over the last 30 years confirms that natural ability is rarely the root cause of failure. And as Peter Senge reinforced in his iconic book The Fifth Discipline, cause and effect are not closely related in space and time. If we are going to really improve performance and develop ourselves, we need to find the true root cause. We need solid evidence about where we went wrong. Unfortunately, that’s the kind of evidence that usually doesn’t make it to our consciousness on its own. We need help getting the right answers.

Character Move:

  1. Don’t be so proud that you won’t seek help from both a performance and development coach. People who are experienced and/or trained to be legitimate coaches will help by asking the right questions and will put a mirror up to show behavior. This will help us discover what’s beneath the surface. Find your coaches! 
  2. Recognize that relying only on self-diagnosis is dangerous. It is likely that self-diagnosis, for just pure scientific reasons, is unreliable. A repeat of No.1 above: Get solid help to increase self-awareness and to build an action plan based on evidence that really addresses root cause and not just symptoms.
  3. Kick start the self-awareness using a more research driven analysis process, based on a Business Press e-book, Nine Things Successful People Do Differently. The author, Heidi Grant Halvorson, recently created the  9 Things Diagnostic. It’s a set of questions you can answer online and get immediate feedback (for free) that tells you which of the “9 Things” you need to work on, and which ones you have already mastered.
  4. However while No.3 above is based on good research and will help you evaluate against the “9 Things” model, it is only a stop over on the way to a more complete self-awareness journey. The mirror you get from caring, insightful coaches that help us get conscious self-understanding, completes this road trip.

Knowing ourselves more in The Triangle,