A More Complete View

May you have the grace and wisdom
To act kindly, learning
To distinguish between what is
Personal and what is not.

May you be hospitable to criticism…
John O’Donohue, “For A Leader”

Back in the days before CEO Bootcamps and Reboot, I was at a growing company. The once small, tight team had mushroomed and needed new management and leadership structures. There was also a dysfunctional tension between the employees and leadership which despite my best efforts in the HR seat–stubbornly persisted. My best efforts efforts fell flat and I eventually moved on.

The company was at a pivotal moment of growth and, I see now, the tensions and growing pains were actually a sign of an opportunity. I wonder though, what would have happened if the leadership team would have taken a moment to look deeper at their own selves in the company via an in depth 360 review. How might the story of that organization have played out differently?

“Until you make the unconscious conscious,” noted Carl Jung, “it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”. Moreover, those unconscious forces, often times tossed into our shadow and out of sight, not only direct our personal lives but they come along for the ride when we stroll into the office.

Those same personal shadows can play out in our leadership and in our organizations. And the crazy part? You can’t always see it yourself in the common parlance of your days unless you act to bring your shadow stuff to light.

Working with our shadows requires the help of an external reflection so that we can fully see what we are doing and how we are being. Once we name what’s in shadow and come to understand it, we can then grow beyond it so that the past no longer becomes present by default. By making the unconscious conscious, we regain our capacity for choice and are not held by the fate of our preconditioned structures that were playing out our life.

I see it again and again in our bootcamps and with our clients: as soon as they uncover how their shadow qualities were shaping the organization, they can then see clearly what’s happening, how they are complicit in what they say they don’t like or want in their organization, and set out to create a new way of being and a new path of growth.

I heard it in Alex Blumberg’s recounting of his experience with his own 360 process this week in The Startup Podcast.

The 360 degree performance review process aims to reflect back those blind spots in our leadership. Looking more closely, when you peel back the layers underneath what’s really driving or motivating your behavior, you uncover a wholly new source of insight–and power–that allows you to grow beyond those inner forces that may be limiting your full potential as a leader in your own life and work.

It’s often said that feedback is a gift. But what’s less admitted is that it’s often a gift we’d rather send back. And yet our leadership depends on our seeing what is true and what is not. Discernment–the ability to cut through our own delusion with fierce honesty–is one of the qualities that separate leaders from managers.

Seeing clearly our strengths and weaknesses as well as understanding how we are perceived is the basis for any leadership development plan. We cannot grow if we don’t understand the work we have to do.

A clearly-articulated, well-rounded performance review is the basis for this plan. This active manifestation of what we call “radical self-inquiry” is the best way to start rebooting your leadership.

Between The Startup Podcast episode and this week’s Reboot Podcast Extra, we have a double-decker aural dessert for you. In this week’s conversation, Fred Wilson and Jerry talk about why 360 degree reviews are important in the growth of a healthy and successful company.

Listen to both conversations and give yourself the gift radical self-inquiry. Then, with the presence and generosity of good friends, you may be able to glimpse the blind-spots that are holding you back from creating the company you were meant to create.