I recently read a terrific blog post by Peter Friedes, retired CEO of Hewitt Associates. He writes about the importance of self-reflection for leaders. He begins by noting that, "We humans tend to evaluate others through the lens of our own best traits." In other words, if someone has strengths similar to our own, we tend to evaluate them very positively. On the other hand, he notes that, "Less flexible managers undervalue traits they are not personally good at." That's one reason we end up hiring people who are fery similar to us.
Friedes argues that we should take a slightly different approach. We should engage in self-reflection, identify our strengths AND weaknesses, and evaluate others accordingly. We should not undervalue the skills and capabilities that we lack. Instead, we should look for people who excel where we do not. A good team has people with complementary skills and abilities. Moreover, we should then try to learn from the people around us, so that we can enhance our own capabilities.
Friedes argues that self-reflection can help us think about whether we are undervaluing people whose strengths differ from our own. Given that the end of year is approaching, it seems a good time to consider his advice and look in the mirror a bit. Of course, the best leaders engage in self-reflection on a routine basis, not just at the end of the year. Consider Harry Kraemer, former CEO of Baxter International. For years, he has advocated for the value of 15 minutes of self-reflection on a daily basis. At the end of each day, Kraemer thinks about his priorities and his values. Kellogg Insight explains a bit about his nightly routine:
Of course, after priorities have been defined, it is important for action to follow. To prevent a gulf between word and deed, Kraemer writes out his self-reflection each night, creating a record of what he has done and what he says he will do. He also checks continuously with family, friends, and close colleagues to ensure he is holding himself accountable and “not living in some fantasy land.”