Some years ago, my consulting company facilitated a retreat for senior-level executives from a well-known corporation experiencing some internal conflict. Throughout our discussions, we were baffled to hear them say things like, "They won't allow "us" to move forward here and do what this organization needs" and "They are not supporting 'us'." After listening to their grievances for a while, I needed to clarify who, exactly, "they" were referring to. "Who are they?" I asked. "We were under the impression that this team is the most senior-level group in the organization. Are we mistaken?"

You could have heard the proverbial pin drop. The senior team realized that they had been looking outside of themselves to lay blame for the organization's problems, when, in fact, they themselves were the ones responsible for the firm. And the entire company counted on them for leadership. This group of executives finally came to terms with the truth that they, in fact, were "they."

When things go wrong in your business and personal relationships, do you ever ask yourself, "why is this happening... yet again?" When you take a closer look, you may find that the outcome of the situation is not nearly as important as the road you took to get there.

A vast majority of leaders fail or derail in their career because they lack interpersonal skills. Being an exceptional leader means pushing and expanding your own personal limits. Part of becoming a heart-centered leader means clarifying your strengths and development needs and learning who you are as a person--a principle we summarize in our book, by the phrase, know thyself. This principle, and the corresponding virtues of a genuine commitment to personal growth and the willingness to look in the mirror and come to understand who you are, are key. By taking a closer look at yourself, you can influence, inspire, and motivate others more successfully.

Self-reflection can be used as a springboard for positive change in our lives -- but it is not an easy task. It requires honesty, integrity and the motivation to take the time to focus internally. However, it is well worth the effort as it can free you from recurring negative patterns. When you fail to wake up and realize that you may be a part of the problem, the same dilemmas blindside you, time after time.

Letting go of blaming others can begin with asking yourself some questions, such as:

What part do I play in this situation?

How do my actions contribute to these problems?

Did I exercise poor judgment?

Did I do or say anything that may have adversely affected someone?

Did I do anything unethical?

Asking for feedback from trusted sources can also be an enlightening experience that opens the door to further understanding. Using their consensus as a tool to take a closer look at how others perceive you can jumpstart the process. You may be surprised to find that as you become more conscious of your actions it naturally follows that you begin to experience richer, more meaningful relationships.

The ultimate purpose in knowing yourself is as much for self-growth as for the growth of those you serve and work with every day. Operating from a place of mindful engagement allows you to perform at a much deeper level of self-expression, and offers more opportunities for genuine, unencumbered interactions with our co-workers, family and friends.