In the late 1980s, Michael Jackson had a hit song called “Man in the Mirror.” Over the past few weeks, this song has taken on new meaning for me, as I have had to do some soul searching regarding some professional challenges I've been dealing with.
Just because I’m an executive coach, and provide people with insight and advice, doesn’t mean that I don’t have to take a dose of my own advice from time to time! Here are three litmus tests that I had to hold up to my own mirror, and that you may want to use as well.
The first test is a simple but crucial question each of us has to ask ourselves. Are you part of the problem, or part of the solution? When things don’t go the way you feel they should, it’s very easy to get knocked off center and feel sorry for yourself. It’s easy to see the mistakes other people are making and the way they are contributing to a challenging situation.
However, as I often tell my clients, there are three sides to every story: yours, mine, and the truth that usually lies somewhere in between. I’ve found myself struggling with a professional issue lately and had to take a step back and see how I had contributed to the issue. This was very hard to do, as I was very clear on how I had been negatively impacted.
Truth be told, I had unfortunately (without malice) added fuel to the proverbial fire. Before you get frustrated with other people, it's always important that you ensure you're part of the solution, and not inadvertently contributing to the problem.
The second question is around alignment. Organizations make decisions for many reasons. Some of the decisions they make we may agree with. Others not so much! As a leader, it’s important that you contribute as decisions are being made. Once a decision is made, you pretty much have two options:
The one thing you can’t do as a leader is stick around and whine profusely about how badly you’ve been treated, and how stupid the decision is! Leaders support the team, regardless of whether or not they fully agree that a decision is optimal.
- Align around the decision. Even if this is not how you would have done it, or even if you don’t think this is the best decision, as a leader, your responsibility is to give 100 percent to make the decision work for the team.
- Take your ball and go home! If decisions are made that you simply can’t align around, either due to issues, ethics, or morality, you need to leave and find a new place to contribute.
Finally, I leave you with the question a leader should always ask his or her constituents: How can I help? People need to know that you care about their success and that your focus is not on your own agenda, but on helping them accomplish theirs.
These are not easy things to do, and they've been a personal struggle for me lately. However, I would be a hypocrite if I offered up this advice to others and wasn’t willing to take it myself. As the old saying goes, ”Physician, heal thyself.”