Know Yourself: The First Step Toward High Performance Leadership

“Self-discovery” is one of those terms that can set off an array of emotional reactions and assumptions. At first glance, its meaning and practical value may seem soft and squishy.

“Is this about feelings?” thought Hwan, an accomplished applications developer and head of IT at a New York City financial services firm. “Self-discovery feels vague and subjective. How is that valuable for me and my career?” Images of navel-gazing, retreats where no mobile devices are allowed, and sharing personal secrets with others sprang to his mind.

Several senior level executives were nearing retirement at Hwan’s company, and he had been identified as an emerging leader. To prepare him for a senior level role, he had been asked by the CEO to participate in an executive coaching engagement. Hwan learned that “self-discovery” is often the first step in an executive coaching engagement and he was feeling ambivalent about the process.

“There are practical approaches to self-discovery based on cognitive science, and proven tangible, long-term benefits,” said Maren Perry, president of Arden Coaching.

Perry says terminology can vary, but self-discovery is focused on thoroughly and objectively understanding how we perceive, process, and respond to the world around us. “How we see the world impacts the choices we make and drives our decisions, actions, and behaviors.”

An experienced certified executive coach helps uncover patterns of thinking behind actions. “We all wear ‘colored glasses’ to view the world,” Perry explained. “In fact, the very idea that we all see the world through filters or colored glasses is often an important discovery in itself. Many executives assume that the way they understand something is reality. They don’t recognize that their understanding is shaped by assumptions, interpretation of facts, and perceptions.”

“If I am wearing blue glasses, everything I see is tinted blue and, naturally, I act on that. Similarly, if I tend to think in win-lose terms and believe that people are out to win at my expense, those viewpoints and assumptions will color my thoughts, actions, and behaviors too.”

Through a process of self-discovery, Hwan will become aware of the colored glasses through which he sees the world. An executive coach will help him revise his rationales — what if Hwan changes his glasses — and modify how he approaches individual situations. It’s an essential first step and a catalyst for creating long-term changes in an executive’s outlook and resulting behaviors.

Understanding how you think; why you sense and perceive the way you do; why you process information and make assumptions the way you do is essential to:

  • Communicate more effectively
  • Motivate and inspire others
  • Strengthen an array of leadership skills from strategic thinking to listening skills
  • Better assess the performance of others
  • Recruit and build high performing teams

“Self-discovery sets the stage for the creation of a specific action plan to cultivate change,” added Perry. “Change that is specific, can be implemented immediately, and produces long-term results.”

To learn more about how executive coaching can help build leadership skills and generate long-term results, contact Arden Coaching at [email protected] or 646.684.3777.