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The Power of Candor

The Self-Awareness Conundrum

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We’re going to do a deep dive on the first step toward closing the candor gap, which is called self-awareness. And it’s really important to start with self-awareness, because most of your leaders probably aren’t aware that they have gaps in opportunities in their ability to have honest and effective conversations. In fact, recent research suggests that while 95% of leaders think they’re self-aware, only 10 to 15% of them actually are. And when my colleagues and I look at the tens of thousands of documented conversations that leaders from all over the world have shared with us, very few of them are able to accurately diagnose what it is about their own behavior that’s preventing them from getting better results. What most of them actually do is blame things outside of themselves, on time, on their capacity, on the culture, and on my personal favorite, other people. They say things like, “If only these other people weren’t so narrow-minded, tribal, defensive, closed to learning, we’d actually make a lot more progress.”

So helping your leaders become more self-aware, it’s really important, because if they don’t realize they have a candor gap, they’re not going to be all that interested in closing it.

So what to do? Well, what we don’t do is hope your leaders will be self-aware before they come to our programs, and then, when they don’t change, blame them and the organization. Instead, we and the master coaches that we train at our clients take responsibility for creating this self-awareness by making it the first step in every single one of our programs.

And the first self-awareness step is motivation, because your leader’s motivation better be really high if they’re going to take a hard look at themselves in the face of how busy, tired, and stressed out many of them are. And this is where we run into what I call the self-awareness conundrum, because most leaders aren’t all that motivated to become self-aware, precisely because they’re not self-aware.

So again, what to do? So we have found that the key is to work on their frustrating problems, real conversations where they failed to get the results they wanted. And why is that? Because emotion sets in motion the desire to learn. And in my experience, nothing motivates a leader to grow and change like a problem they care about, but that they can’t solve. So instead of hoping your leaders will apply what they learned at our programs to their problems, we ask them to bring in their frustrating problems to our programs.

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