Do You See Yourself Accurately?

seeing ourselves accurately - picture of a woman holding a question mark poster in front of her face

By Inge Woudstra

It’s true. It’s easier to think of humility and vulnerability as it applies to others. But what about ourselves? Are we willing to view ourselves accurately? Can we admit we are not as good at something as we think? Are we open to learning? Are we willing to be led by others? More specifically, in my case, am I?

To answer this question, I want to share a story with you.

Recently it was suggested that I join a course on the application of the Thinking Environment – a coaching methodology proffered by Nancy Kline that we also embrace here at Voice At The Table.  The aim of the Thinking Environment is to support others in achieving their best thinking – a practice that we regard as an integral part of Inclusion.

I was truly doubtful this course was for me. To understand my doubts, you have to know more about me. See, I really value my own expertise in Diversity & Inclusion.  I have been working in this field for a long time. I also bring a wealth of experience as a leadership trainer, having attended many courses on leadership, influencing, advanced facilitating techniques and designing effective training programmes. So, you can understand I wasn’t sure I needed another course on a similar topic.

When discussing my doubts, I was subtly encouraged to see beyond what I already knew and focus on what I don’t yet know. When put like this, I had to admit that, when it comes to being open to new ideas and to really listening, with curiosity, there’s a lot I can learn.  But why, I thought,  focus on what I don’t do well?

Of course, it is important that we, as leaders, keep learning and evolving, so we can offer the most novel and creative solutions for our clients. So, in the end,  I enrolled.

Now I am halfway through the course, and I can truly say it’s already making a difference to my work. First revelation: I forgot how much I love working on my self-development. I enjoy the challenge of taking the techniques we are learning and looking at ways I can implement them in my work. But, most importantly – my second revelation – I can see the impact of those skills that I have always found hardest to learn: being open to new ideas and listening with curiosity. My new listening mindset is making a real difference to how I run client meetings and internal meetings, and I can see people responding differently to me already. It’s such a revelation to discover that it is possible teach an old dog new tricks!

So, today I thanked the person who suggested it, explaining how grateful I was that they insisted. I shared how surprised I was to find they were right, and how I can now see the Thinking Environment for the powerful methodology it is in bringing out a person’s best thinking. I am already finding ways to help clients with it, and I am only halfway through the course!

This demonstrates to me how human we all are. Sometimes we get things wrong. The key lies in knowing what to do with it. A truly inclusive leader shows humility and vulnerability. When we do that, it allows space for others to bring new ideas and encourages them to share their thinking. That way, we start to truly tap into the diversity of thinking of our team. Seeing this, others around me are also encouraged to share their ideas with me, and I will be more open to them.

I would love to hear what you have learned? What blind spots have you recently discovered? Where might you be able to learn more? What did you get wrong about Diversity & Inclusion? When was the last time that you, as a leader, learned  something new?

We don’t have to be super-human. We don’t have to know everything. All we need to be is humble and not hesitate to ask for help.

If you need help, know that I’m only a short call away. Why not book an Expert-on-Tap call with us, or join one of our (complementary) peer mentoring circles for senior D&I leaders.