Turn on the Light

No matter who you are or what job you have, there’s a leader in you. However, sometimes leadership stalls between who you are and what others see. What do others see in you?

One might call this self-awareness. I call it self-management. With the goal of being adaptable for anything that comes your way, knowing how you fit and being seen in the most positive light, managing your reflection is a simple but underestimated tool for leading.

Speaking of light, let’s explore that concept. When you walk into a dark room, what do you seedark_room_by_ikiz? There are probably shadows, maybe outlines of familiar items. But turn on the light and behold! There is a sea of debris that needs to be picked up, cleaned, or gotten rid of altogether. Good thing you turned the light on, lest you trip over something and hit your head on a bunk bed ladder (OK, I did this once).

We are not unlike a dark room. It’s important to turn on the light to those things in ourselves that need tidying. We think we know ourselves, so with pride leave the light off and trip over obvious things anyway. The point is, try to see what needs to be picked up, like things you don’t want guests to see when they drop in unexpectedly (i.e. the people with whom you want to/need to partner with). Only then can you manage what you show to others. Here are some quick ways to turn on the light:

With whom do you associate? I won’t suggest you superficially build relationships with co-workers, superiors or others that you don’t genuinely like. However, consider your associations in the context of a room that has the light on and is tidied: Choose to align with people you admire, can learn from, or generally consider wise. Pick one person this week and grab coffee or lunch.

What does your best work friend think? According to Gallup, everybody does, or should have a “best friend” at work. Who is your best friend at work? Ask him or her this question, “In what ways might I be holding myself back that I’m not seeing, but others do?” Make this a light, fun conversation.

What does your boss think? I know, this is a scary proposition. It implies you have a trusting relationship with your boss or value their perspective. Regardless, his/her opinion matters at least tactically, and discussions like this go toward building positive relationships. Ask your boss this, “If there was one thing I project that might be getting in my way professionally and preventing me from leading effectively, what would that be?”

What are you thinking? One of the most insidious and annoying things about our thoughts is that we often wear them on our face and unknowingly express them in our actions. With the light on in your room, what are you thinking when you enter that workplace or meeting? Imagine the possibilities if you thought the following, “What is the positive, shared outcome for this situation and how can I contribute?”

A smile never hurts either — a light switch for an otherwise dreary meeting or day!

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

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