Just How Self-Aware Are You?

The below quote caught my attention recently because of an interview I did with Matt Fischer, Co-founder & CEO of Curiosity Advertising.

  • “Modeling behavior well for others requires an incredible amount of self-awareness.” Nick Sarillo, CEO of Nick’s Pizza & Pub, page 135, “A Slice of the Pie: How to Build a Big Little Business.”

This quote and Matt’s interview reminded me of how challenging it is to become a truly self-aware leader.

I got my first real glimpse of this when I was teaching audio editing as a student at Hofstra University.

Way back before digital audio editing, we actually used magnetic reel-to-reel audio tape, a white crayon, and tape to edit and splice audio tape. It was indeed a very manual process. And, to me, it seemed pretty straight forward and relatively easy.

So, I took a job teaching other students how to edit audio tape. Amanda (name changed) was having difficulty grasping the process. In my eagerness to help her I showed her again, and again, and again. About 15 minutes into the training session, she pushed back her chair, stood, and yelled at me, “Todd, you, you, you, you, are such a NAZI!”

And, there it was. I hadn’t been called something like that since I was a kid when my long German last name caught people’s attention.

I was stunned by her reaction. Why was she so upset, I thought to myself.

Years later now, I coach Founders and CEOs for a living and I often share this story about how our perceptions of the world and our awareness of ourselves influences our approach to leadership.

You see, I’m fairly certain my “teaching” didn’t sound like “teaching” to Amanda. I got more intense, more incredulous that she could not grasp what I thought was simple, and that was not at all helpful to her. My own lack of self-awareness prevented me from doing what I had intended to do, help and serve.

So, when Matt Fischer came on the FFTC podcast and told his story on the path from Co-founder to CEO, it became even more clear to me just how important self-awareness is to leadership.

Matt candidly talked about an issue he was having with his co-founder. He explained that he initially believed his co-founder was not aligned with the company’s mission and becoming somewhat of a barrier to growth. After much introspection and outside help, Matt came to realize that the problem was not with his co-founder, but with him.

I am not so sure I often hear Founders & CEOs so publicly sharing such self-awareness. (you can listen to his interview here.)

How self-aware are you? Need some help figuring that out?

There are lots of things you can do to get help with this.

  • Have an external consultant conduct a 360-degree feedback evaluation
  • Complete an assessment tool like the Birkman
  • Ask a trusted person to watch you in a meeting and provide feedback
  • Ask a friend or family member to describe you when you are at your best and describe you when you are at your worst

As you think about this, it might be helpful to remember this quote:

  • “By far the most difficult skill I learned as CEO was the ability to manage my own psychology.” — Ben Horowitz, Former CEO & Co-Founder, Opsware, Inc. Author of: “The Hard Thing About Hard Things.”

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