Monday, April 23, 2018

Leadership Perspectives: Seeing Ourselves As Others See Us

February 25, 2011 by  
Filed under Leadership, Success Factors, Values, Women Leaders

By Sylvia Lee Lafair

Ever wonder what you look like, sound like, act like in the eyes of your customer, direct report, Fed Ex delivery person, spouse or partner?

While most of us will give lip service to feedback there is a deep tendency to shrink away from being told anything that smacks of negativity. Out loud we usually say, “Thanks for telling me, I’ll look into your comments” while internally the thought is: “Who do you think you are, that’s just the way I am!”

There is such powerful resistance to change that most of us would rather be right than happy. We tend to dig our heels in and while we hear the words to make change happen in our lives, they slide away like an ice cream cone rolling down a toddler’s face on a hot summer’s day.

It takes real effort to listen.

Ingrained habits and patterns of behavior have their place. Think about it: what if every morning you had to relearn to brush your teeth, comb your hair or get dressed.

Yet, way too often we go on automatic, not thinking about what we are doing and how it impacts others. Gandhi put it perfectly when he said we should not mistake what is habitual for what is natural. Changing what is habitual is one of the goals of self awareness, one of the key elements of becoming a great leader.

What we teach in “Total Leadership Connections” is the power of becoming Pattern Aware. This goes hand and hand with developing high emotional intelligence. Here are some thoughts to help you move from “It’s just the way I am” to “Here is how I choose to be.”

First, take the time to really listen to feedback. It is there for you to move to higher levels of self awareness and leadership excellence. While listening, rather than brushing comments aside, notice your gut reaction. If you tend to feel tightness in your stomach or notice you are clenching your fists or your jaw, pay close attention.

You can learn a lot about yourself simply by monitoring your own body sensations. Most of these basic reactions stated in childhood when you were yelled at by a parent, sibling or a teacher. This is where we all learned to hate feedback. It was rarely given in thoughtful, well planned ways. Usually it was a slap on the rear or a taunt, or detention. Not good for learning better habits. Good for creating defensive positioning.

Gandhi was right, what is habitual is not natural. What is natural is to tell the truth, be accountable and look for ways to cooperate and accentuate creativity.

Sylvia Lafair, Ph.D., author of the award winning book, “Don’t Bring It to Work” and “Pattern Aware Success Guide”, is President of CEO, Creative Energy Options, Inc., a global consulting company focused on optimizing workplace relationships through extratordinary leadership. Dr. Lafair’s unique model has revolutionized the way teams cooperate, relate and innovate.
She can be reached at or 570-636-3858;

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3 Responses to “Leadership Perspectives: Seeing Ourselves As Others See Us”
  1. Great post Sylvia! All too often, people ask for your opinion and then when you do give them honest feedback, they give you a look like you just killed one of their children and say thanks while you know that they are reeling and just wanting to tell you how wrong you are! Learning how to accept feedback is a huge step in expanding your horizons and learning how to improve yourself continuously.

    Christian Fey recently posted..Tips for Engineers to Stop Underhanded Behavior

    • Georgia says:

      Christian – I like your statement about expanding your horizons and learning how to improve yourself. When people receive feedback, it often runs’ smack dab into the middle of a belief they are holding, and they are sometimes unaware of the impact it has on how they interrelate with others. That may be why they are so startled. I find it’s helpful to provide an explanation of how that belief shows up in their actions, but even that sometimes catches them unaware. Great thoughts!


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