I bet more than a few of you readers can still sing that easy-to-remember chorus. But can you accurately answer the question “Who are you?”
Knowing the answer to that question is one of the keys to unleashing the full potential held within each and every one of us. We each have many roles in our lives. When we can properly prioritize each role and live by being true to ourselves, usually we are happier and more productive individuals.
That is especially true in business.
Two of the philosopher Socrates’ most famous quotes are “Know thyself” and “To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.” When I begin an engagement with an executive coaching client, I put the question to my client: “Who are you?” The answer is usually the basis for the next six to 12 months of our work together.
In today’s business parlance, what we are addressing is called “self-awareness.”
In every job interview, this subject comes up with the questions “Can you tell me about yourself?” “What are your strengths?” and “What are your weaknesses?” The reason the answers are important is that self-awareness is the No. 1 trait of successful employees, executives and business owners.
A study was conducted in 2010 by Green Peak Partners and Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations. The study examined 72 executives at public and private companies and their interpersonal traits.
“Leadership searches give short shrift to ‘self-awareness,’ which should actually be a top criterion,” the study found. “Interestingly, a high self-awareness score was the strongest predictor of overall success. This is not altogether surprising as executives who are aware of their weaknesses are often better able to hire subordinates who perform well in categories in which the leader lacks acumen. These leaders are also more able to entertain the idea that someone on their team may have an idea that is even better than their own.”
Unfortunately, admitting to yourself that you can’t do everything is hard for some people.
Let’s examine a client of mine whom I will call Anthony. Anthony owns and runs a successful chain of restaurants. He built his business by the sweat of his brow.
His business was stuck at a certain level because he was stuck personally on the thought that he was the best at everything. He was the best chef, the best at service, the best at accounting, the best at marketing, etc. He was not just a generalist of business skills; he was the best generalist.
Employees could never live up to his expectations. The growth of his business was limited to what he could do “best.”
Anthony hired me in the hope I could help him with marketing. Not that I knew more than him, but maybe, just maybe, I could offer a new idea or two.
After a few weeks of building trust and making a solid connection with him, I did give him a new idea: I gave him a mirror and asked him what he saw when he looked in that mirror. After a few moments of reflective thought (also a new concept for him), his answer was “I am a driven, hardworking, successful entrepreneur.”
Together, we then discussed what role an entrepreneur should play in his or any business. Then the discussion went to the cycle of business and on and on.
After a few sessions of being able to honestly assess his own strengths and weaknesses, Anthony began to build a great team around him. With his team in place, his business began to grow again.
Mission accomplished with a little tool known as a mirror.
If your business is stuck, it might be time to follow the advice of Socrates and begin to know thyself. If that is too hard, just download the Who’s easy-to-remember “Who Are You?” The answers lie within.
Jason Adler is a John Maxwell-certified executive coach (www.johncmaxwellgroup.com/jasonadler) helping people and their organizations hire and keep quality employees.