When You Look In The Mirror, What Do You See?

A number of years ago I sat in a session given by Marshall Goldsmith where he asked everyone in the room to close their eyes and raise their hands if they considered themselves in the top 50% of all of the people in their field of work. He asked everyone to keep them up, without looking, if they felt they were in the 70th percentile, then 80th, and finally 90th percentile. If I asked you to do the same thing, where would you rank yourself?

During the session Mr. Goldsmith told us to put our hands down and open our eyes and he went on to share that he has done this very informal and unscientific poll countless times and every time he has done it he estimates the vast majority feel they are in the top 90% in their particular field, and never could he remember not having anyone think they were at least in the top half. Think about the incredible odds of never getting someone that was below average in all the years and sessions he has done that.

I've thought of that session recently as I reflect on where I am in my life and in my career. I've always felt that I had a number of strengths that I bring with me in my work, and I'm honest enough with myself to admit to some of the weaknesses that I have. In general I feel like I'm pretty good at my job, not the greatest, but certainly in the 70th or 80th percentile. Recently I've had a few setbacks at work and have begun to doubt my self-assessment. There are things I could have done better, projects that didn't go well and generally not reacting to situations in a better way. When my manager called me out on that, it made me wonder if maybe I haven't been as honest with myself as I should have been all these years. That when I look in the mirror I look at myself through rose colored glasses and can't see the truth. I always strive to be a good employee, a good manager, a good husband and a good father, but my fear is to discover that I'm just average, or worse, in any of those areas.

This isn't about me feeling sorry for myself, it is about having people around you that can honestly give you feedback about how you are doing so you can see the truth. The truth that we often have a hard time viewing in ourselves. For some, they have a lower view of themselves and they need people to bring them up, point out the things that they are great at. For others they have a very high view of themselves and whenever they hear something negative they get defensive or worse, start attacking the person that is honestly trying to help them. No matter who you are and how you see yourself in the mirror, you need to surround yourself with people that will give you some different opinions about what they see.

I would encourage you to find people that you work with and that are in other parts of your life and build that team that will be honest with you, tell you the good things and the bad. When you seek it out, the feedback you get is helpful, you actually will take it in and do something with it. Unfortunately we live in a world where people are all too willing to give feedback, they have no problem telling others what they feel they could do better. But when you create that relationship and become a willing participant what you get can really help you become the person you want to see when you look in the mirror.


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