As the CEO of your company, you might be tempted to try and sit in on every single meeting, and offer your input on every single product redesign, all without letting your employees see you break a sweat.
But no one can do it all (or has the skills to do it all). And if you want to be a better leader, every so often you need to take an up-close-and-personal snapshot of your own leadership skills--think of it as a leadership selfie.
Often we're focused on evaluating everyone else that we forget to stop and look in the mirror. There are plenty of examples in history and pop culture of people--from Trump to Breaking Bad's Walter White--whose lack of self-awareness was their downfall.
If you're nervous, just look at Richard Branson: he happily admits his weaknesses andacknowledges his failures (and runs more than 400 successful companies and is worth $5.1 billion). Only when you see yourself clearly can you take your business to the next level.
Step 1: Write Down Your Weaknesses
The first step to fixing any problem is to identify it. One of my favorite thought leaders,strategic coach Dan Sullivan, has been saying this for decades. It's not always easy to be self-aware, but it's worth figuring out: teams whose employees show poor self-awareness have been proven to make worse decisions, have poor conflict management skills and have communication problems.
Years ago, I realized I needed help growing 1-800-GOT-JUNK? - I was working in my business, not on it. So I sat down and drew a line on a piece of paper: on one side I listed things I loved doing (branding, big picture ideas) and on the other, things I struggled with (fine details, day-to-day operations). It was an honest snapshot of where I needed some help. From there, I hired a new chief operating officer - someone who could pick up my slack and help me focus my strengths.
Step 2: Create A Culture Of Candor
Asking for feedback while you're completing your selfie won't work if you're surrounded by yes-people. And a study of 19 countries suggests a lot of folks are aiming to please - only half of employees have everchallenged their boss by voicing their opinion.
Creating a culture where people are comfortable sharing feedback starts with trust - a concept explored in Patrick Lencioni's The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team. But trust isn't something you just proclaim is part of your culture - it needs to be earned and practiced.
One of the ways we do that atO2E Brands is with regular "Speaking Like a Leader" sessions. Participants give a presentation and peers evaluate them with one compliment and one thing to work on. It's simple, but it's great practice for giving and receiving thoughtful, constructive feedback and learning to trust (and be trusted by) peers.
Another important way to create a "culture of candor" is to lead by example: be open and honest as a leader, and you'll find your team feels more comfortable being open and honest right back.
Step 3: Act On Feedback
It's one thing to ask for feedback. It's another thing to really listen and act on it.
One of the core tenets of the leadership classicGood to Great notes that a great leader is someone who accepts that "to be the best me, I need to serve my company."
Zappos' Tony Hsieh is the modern-day posterboy for this kind of radical humility, constantly self-assessing and improving for the sake of the company. (It's no coincidence that one of Zappos' core values is "Be Humble.")
Once you know what needs fixing, do something. Don't be a statistic - one survey found that 81% of executives and business leaders have worked with a leader who simply failed to listen. Whether it's hiring someone to supplement your weaknesses, or even getting pointers from a manager who runs better meetings than you, taking feedback to heart will make you - and your business - stronger. Ask, listen, act, repeat: that simple process is the secret to success among so many of the leaders that inspire and motivate us.