For many of us, the end of the year is a time for self-reflection. We think about what we accomplished, and what we did not. And amongst the leaders I know, the tendency is to focus on what we missed, what can be better, what’s next? The notion that we can constantly make ourselves and our companies better, in theory, is a great idea. But when does it become too much?
For me, the best way to answer this question is to notice our strengths, the strengths of our teams and of our companies and then work to enhance them. In my Vistage work and as a leadership coach and advisor, I refer to this as discovering and working in our genius.
According to Alina Tugend, author of this New York Times article Pursuing Self-Improvement, at the Risk of Self-Acceptance, it was Dale Carnegie who ushered in the era of introspection and self-improvement.
She asserts that we have become so focused on achieving that we are never able to appreciate who we are or what we’ve already accomplished: “[W]hen we’re constantly reaching rather than occasionally being satisfied with what we have in front of us, that’s a recipe for perpetual dissatisfaction.”
For me, the best way to avoid the “better, better, better” trap is to ask the following questions about ourselves, our teams and our companies:
- What am I (we, they) already good at? What do I (we, they) need to do to become excellent at this?
- Of the things I (we, they) are not good at and are striving to be better at, what can I (we, they) delegate to someone else?
- Can I (we, they) find a way to accept being adequate or “good enough” at the rest?
Once we know and understand what we are good at, and focus on that, we not only become more effective, we become more satisfied and ultimately become better leaders of better companies.