The leaders I work with enjoy mentoring and developing others. They help their team members operate from their strengths and identify areas for development. They can get frustrated, though, when it’s not as easy to determine their areas for development. I often get asked, “Amy, why is it so easy to help strengthen the development skills of others than it is for me?”

Our development skills can be hidden

There are many reasons we aren’t as skilled at seeing our areas for development. Several of those reasons are related to the lens through which we view ourselves. For example:

  • Imagine you are standing with a crowd. Look around. What can you see? Imagine taking an elevator up three flights and walking out onto the balcony to look at the same scene. What do you see now? Your perspective is broader. You notice different things and can see the interplay of dynamics happening on the ground in a way that wasn’t visible when you stood at ground level. When we are viewing ourselves, we tend to use the lens of the person on the ground. When we help others with development skills, we are the person on the balcony with a much different perspective. 

What can I do here to widen my perspective? 

  • Having a balcony view of yourself will help your development. One way to shift your perspective is to pause when you are triggered into an old behavior pattern you want to change. The pause interrupts your routine and allows you to choose your response rather than automatically react. Even though it takes a lot of work to interrupt an old behavior pattern, a simple pause can significantly impact it and help be more clear of those development skills.
  • If you have an area you have identified for development (i.e., you interrupt people in meetings without letting them finish), notice when you are triggered into that behavior. What are the patterns and triggers? When do you not interrupt others? What’s different about that? Adding a ‘noticing’ component into your day will make you much more aware of when you are engaging in the behavior. With awareness comes the ability to change. Until we are aware, though, we cannot change the behavior.  

“Intent” is another lens through which we view ourselves

The “intent” view doesn’t help us identify those development skills. We typically have good intentions behind our behaviors. Using the example above of interrupting people in meetings, you may think some of the following thoughts: 

  • Everyone is busy.
  • Meetings are too long. 
  • I know some ideas team members suggest in a meeting will never work. I don’t want us to waste all our time on ideas that aren’t feasible. 
  • I’m a decisive leader, and team members appreciate knowing the direction we are taking. 
  • They will be thankful that they get done with the meeting early. 

All of these thoughts have positive intent attached to them. However, what is the impact you are having on team members?

Are they happy to be done with the meeting early? Possibly yes.

Do they feel their ideas are heard and valued?

Do they feel that you are open to suggestions on new approaches? Possibly no. 

How do I not only look through a lens of good intent?

A 360 assessment or stakeholder interviews may be a good choice here. 

These tools can allow you to understand your behaviors’ impact on your boss, peers, and direct reports. Digging much deeper into the assessment tool with a coach can help uncover unconscious fears running your automatic behaviors and affecting your development skills.

Development requires you to view yourself through a different lens or multiple lenses.

When mentoring and developing others, you use a different lens than they see themselves. As a result, it makes it easier to help them.

Instituting new ways of viewing yourself will uncover a different way of seeing your situation, impact, and behaviors that can significantly affect how you lead.