Joanie Rufo, Founder of Initiate Consulting, is a Certified Leadership Coach with nearly 25 years of experience helping leaders be more purposeful and effective. In that time, she’s found that the key to effectively leading others is, first, learning to effectively lead yourself – a concept she calls Leading Self.
Joanie guides us through the challenges that prevent leaders from effectively leading themselves, and the solutions to help you break through that inertia.
Leaders have a lot of pressure these days and are always under a spotlight – every action, every word, and every behavior is constantly being evaluated.
They often tend to put themselves on the backburner. By doing so, they really do a disservice to those that they're leading. Their behavior, who they are, and how they are showing up affects other people, and it affects how effective those leaders can be.
As a result, leaders have to understand their own patterns of behavior, what their triggers are, and other people's experience of them. Are you showing up the way you want to be seen, on any given day and in any given scenario?
But for many, this can be a dramatic mindset shift. There’s a lot on their plate, so time to reflect feels like a luxury they don’t have – but if you don’t make the time, you’ll probably never lead effectively.
So the first, and most important obstacle to Leading Self that you must overcome is a willingness to look at your reflection in the proverbial mirror.
This, coupled with feedback from others is critical to 1) get the full perspective and understanding of people’s experience of you and 2) be able to understand what changes need to happen and put that into practice.
It’s rarely easy, but change is always possible.
Don’t believe us? Maybe you will believe one of Joanie’s previous clients: "My biggest takeaway or lasting insight from coaching is that change is possible. Although this concept sounds simple, my initial worldview was that people are wired a certain way, and they are who they are. Coaching has shown me this is not necessarily the case and that hard-wired behaviors are able to shift."
Leading self requires looking inward to understand what is prompting our outer behavior because our inner world drives everything. Our own emotions, our frustrations, the things that excite us, the things that drain us: all of that is impacting how we are showing up for ourselves and for other people.
That starts with a willingness to look in the mirror and overcome any fear of change, which isn’t easy.
Getting feedback from others is another initial step because no assessment tells the whole truth about who one is.
While feedback can be difficult for a lot of people, without it you’re only dealing with your own perspective and perception of self.
It’s best to not react, respond, or get defensive when feedback is delivered. Initially, just listen and receive the feedback. You will begin to understand that the feedback isn’t about what people are saying about you, but rather what people are saying to you.
Take time to digest and understand the feedback. Through this digestion process, you will shift from a fear-based perspective to a learning-based perspective.
While the action plan for every leader will differ, its about starting small and identifying the one or two core changes that will have the most impact. Of course, that will be different for every leader. Test and learn your way to create an authentic version of yourself to make these identified areas of change actionable.
Joanie creates self-observation experiments for her clients to help people start noticing their own behaviors and triggers. When you become more aware these in certain situations, you will start to notice the physiological and psychological cues in your body.
Although practicing self-reflection and accepting feedback is an important part of the leading process, it’s a blind spot for many people. Luckily, like any habit, it’s a muscle that can be built up through practice – and should be.
And like a muscle, this habit will atrophy if you don’t keep up with it, and the best way to accomplish that is blocking out time in your calendar for self-assessment and reflection.