“I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer,
to treat everything as if it were a nail.”
Abraham H. Maslow
Who we are rises above what we say. We act out our inner voices. We all do.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, said, “What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.”
What we say to ourselves defines us.
We are the sum total of our self-talk.
Our inner conversations either add to who we are or subtract us from being who we can be. Nothing startlingly new here, I admit. But we overlook it everyday.
What we say to ourselves either multiplies our strengths or proliferates our limitations. Our confused and conflicting self-talk can either divide and conquer us or unite our will to conquer our fears. What we believe becomes us. We become what we imagine.
Those you lead look to you for your clarity.
Who do you look to, to insure yours?
In many ways our self-talk reveals how much we really cancel ourselves out. Our self-limiting beliefs all too often step up to keep us down and then step ahead of our efforts to hold us back.
As leaders we’re constantly faced with deciding which inner voice to follow and which voice will lead us. Self-aware leaders reflect clarity. And their clarity is clearly why others follow them.
Here are two examples of how our self-talk can impose and impact us. The first example is trivial. It will be difficult to identify with and easy therefore to dismiss. The example second one, not so. You tell me.
Walking my one of my three large Newfoundland dogs the other day I see a man on same side of the street walking toward me. Because I’m thoughtful I step out into the street so he can pass unconcerned. I don’t know if he likes dogs or not, if he’s afraid of dogs or not. My dogs are as dangerous as honey. No aura whatsoever to be alarmed about. I just want to make sure his passage easy for him.
Before reaching me he crosses to the other side of the street. Once there he says, ”Hope I don’t’ scare your dog.” He doesn’t. Wouldn’t. Couldn’t, if he tried. If anything the size of my dog would scare him. It obviously did. His concern though wasn’t real. His concern was imagination in his head not reality outside. Not with my dog.
How did this guy know what he believes is true, is true? He doesn’t. His concern in reality is imagined but real to him.
My point here, dogs aside is that we often act without really knowing if what we think we know is true. Or not.
Dumb example right? How about a self-talk example that replaces a large dog with a large doubt say, for leadership capacity and ability?
Try this inner voice and see if it rings true at all. “If I show vulnerability then my people will think less of me as a leader.” How would you know that? Unless you’ve been told point blank. If you haven’t, you don’t. You’re assuming.
Or how about this anxious whisper. “If I let others know I care about them and not just their results then, they’ll think I’m too soft to lead effectively.” How do you know what you think others think about you is true unless you’ve asked around and your suspicion has been confirmed? You don’t. Unless you’ve asked and exactly what you thought is actually what came back. If it did, then you know.
Or, how about this mental undertone, “If I talk more about culture than about driving profit and objectives, even though we are profitable, then my team will think I’ve lost my edge. After all I’m know for driving results, not for how those results are achieved. That’s the biz soft stuff others may have time for but I don’t.” Again, how do you really know, what you think you know about how others see you, is true? Unless you’ve objectively validated it you don’t know.
Here’s a stunning irony. We operate in a society that is unprecedented in rich information yet as we operate are we are feedback poor.
How do you know what you think you know? Here’s a few simple ways find out, validate you’re knowing and separate it from your imagining.
- Create a key players list to get you the feedback you need.
- Calendar that to happen on a regular basis.
- Determine the level of trust that exists in each of your selected players.
- Where trusts levels are low, build it up.
- Understand this simple truth;
No one will believe in you until they believe you believe in them.
- Practice it. A lot.
- Be the model of feedback for others that you want others to be for you.
- Be open for the feedback you want, even if you fear it.
- Express your vulnerability. It won’t kill you.
- Realize you can’t see what you can’t see. We all have blind spots.
It’s why rear view mirrors were invented.
None of us can really know what we think we know until our assumptions are vetted and validated or tossed aside for the garbage they were.
Question not what you know . . . but more . . .
how you know, what you know.
Challenge your assumptions. You do it with others. Do it for yourself.
Invite others to challenge your thinking, especially those you’re not drawn to or see eye-to-eye with.
Don’t avoid looking into what you suppose to be true – like the paranoid guy avoided my dog.
Lead yourself beyond your assumptions. Don’t let your assumptions lead you.
End assumptive thinking before your assumptions end you!