So, “Selfie” is Oxford Dictionaries’ “word of the year!” “Selfies,” of course, are those snapshots that we see practically everyone taking of themselves with smart phones and posting on social media. Oxford explains how “selfie” earned its distinction because of its impact on society and its ubiquity. (Use of the term has increased 17,000% since last year!)
There is another kind of “selfie” that would be great to see come anywhere near the popularity of all the self-photos. It is a different sort of self snapshot that heeds the Oracle of Delphi’s advice thousands of years ago: “Know thyself.” Too few of us meet the first requirement for emotional intelligence popularized by Daniel Goleman: self-awareness. It’s unsettling to encounter managers, team members, drivers, neighbors, associates and others in everyday life who act in ways that make it clear they are blind to the impact of their boorish behavior. And how unsettling especially, wishing that we’d known sooner, to discover for the first time how we’ve been blind to the way we come across.
As Goleman reminds us, self-awareness must come before the self-management that exhibits emotional intelligence, and emotional intelligence pays. How might the troubles and pain caused by so many in the news for all the wrong reasons been avoided if only they were more aware of their shadow sides and better able to control them? How might things have been different if investment bankers that contributed to our latest recession knew more about what drove them to make imprudent decisions? How many more valuable employees could be retained if only their supervisors or senior managers were more aware of their propensities for micromanagement, bullying or capricious behavior?
Self-awareness also plays a vital role accurately assessing reality. Unless we know about our preferences for taking in and processing information or how we learn, for example, we may never know what we are missing. Unless we know how upbringing, culture or perceptual biases filter what we see or hear and how we interpret it, we are likely to see things as we are versus how they really are.
Instead of a smart phone and social media, tools for the kind of “selfie” that I’m talking about include personality surveys, “360” appraisals, openness to feedback, learning about ourselves from experience and capacities for self-reflection. Among other things, the popular Myers-Briggs Type Indicator reflects our preference for taking information in directly through our senses (whatever we can see, taste, touch or smell) vs. using intuition and seeing patterns to determine what’s true even if not directly observable. It’s good for intuitives to know they will likely “miss some trees for the forest,” just as sensing types may “miss a few forests for the trees.” I use the Hogan Development Survey in some of my work to help clients identify which of eleven personality traits might derail their career. I wonder on how many occasions one of those derailers, excessive “boldness,” contributed to fatal transportation mishaps, exploding oil platforms and collapsed mines?
“It takes two to know one!”(S. Culbert) Actually, the more the better; employing “360” appraisals, openness to feedback, just asking for others’ candid input and really listening are among the best ways to learn about ourselves. Self-awareness is best played as a “team sport.”
Teams and organizations also benefit from “selfies” that reflect their character and culture. Culture or engagement surveys, commercially available team and organization assessment instruments, and consultants experienced in conducting organization assessments are customary ways of reducing team and organizational blind spots. One of the most powerful questions of inTEgro’s Organizational Integrity Survey asks respondents to indicate how well senior leaders model the organization’s stated values. Senior teams are not happy if they learn that they scored 2.5 out of 5, but are in a much better position knowing that so they can do something about it instead of continuing to do more damage.
By all means, have fun with your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat selfies! While you’re at it, employ some of the strategies here for knowing yourself and your organization better.
“Nothing is easier than self-deceit. For what each man wishes, that he also believes to be true.”
“The outward journey is nothing without an equivalent journey within oneself; otherwise, we travel to the ends of the earth and yet stay exactly the same.”
Doug Ammons in Whitewater Philosophy
“Our view of reality is like a map with which to negotiate the terrain of life. If the map is true and accurate, we will generally know how to get there. If the map is false and inaccurate, we generally will be lost.”
M. Scott Peck
(Banner photo credit: Flickr – skakeman)