written by Angie Morgan

My parents invested thousands of dollars in dance lessons for my sister and me growing up. When I dance to Single Ladies by Beyoncé in the kitchen, I can’t help but think that was money well spent.

Anyway …

I remember one dance recital we had in high school where my team and I performed to a Grease hit. I recall being in love with the song, the choreography, and the costumes. I also remember my parents being in the audience with their mega-large camcorder. This performance, I decided, was going to be the one where I went ALL OUT. And I did. It felt awesome.

Flash forward to the next day when we watched the tape. I was SHOCKED! I was out of control, exaggerated in my moves, and I tried to own the show … not be a part of my team. To say I was embarrassed was an understatement.

In my mind, I was a star. In reality, I wasn’t. That’s a pretty HUGE disconnect.

This experience has served as a touchstone for me throughout my life. How we see ourselves, and how we show up, can be two completely different experiences. As an example:

  • We can see ourselves as decisive and commanding, whereas others can see us as micromanaging and autocratic.
  • We can see ourselves as quiet and less than, while others see us as insightful and valuable.
  • Where we see funny and gregarious, others see mean spirited and over the top.
  • We can see ourselves as uncreative and lacking originality, where others view our ideas as unique and innovative.

So … who’s right? To be honest, being “right” shouldn’t be the goal for any of us. The better goal is to have compassion for ourselves and to be open to feedback on how others experience us and our leadership. That allows us to have congruence between how we view ourselves and how others perceive us. THAT’S SELF-AWARENESS. It’s striving toward the truth about you.

I firmly believe that we all want to be our best. We want greater awareness on our strengths, weaknesses, and blind spots in an effort to continue to grow, develop, and express ourselves both authentically and more consistently with our intentions.

To gain greater self-awareness, here are a few tips:

  • Ask key stakeholders to describe your top three strengths and three areas where you can improve.
  • When you’re presenting in meetings, or participating in group sessions, ask a trusted colleague how you “show up” in that space – their in-the-moment feedback can serve as valuable insight.
  • Take time to do a self-evaluation. It doesn’t have to be fancy yet put pen to paper to describe your strengths and the areas you are aware you need to develop. Include bad habits you’re wanting to move beyond.
  • Conduct an informal 360°. Create a brief online survey where participants can provide anonymous feedback regarding your strengths, development areas, and opportunities for you to contribute more.
  • Scroll through the Sparkslead.us site and explore a few of the self-awareness tools, like the Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 handouts.

Note: When you receive feedback and insight on you, the ONLY response to it all is “thank you.” You’ve been given a gift. Accept it with grace and dignity.

Here’s to continued growth and development!

Looking for a once-in-a-career experience? Learn about Lead Star’s Leadership Coaching Program, Year to Rise.

Angie Morgan is the co-founder of Lead Star, an experienced leadership coach, and bestselling author of SPARK, Leading from the Front, and Bet on You.