Friday morning I was mentoring four young female leaders. They had asked me to spend an hour with them sharing my experiences and responding to some of the questions that were facing them as leaders. I view this as an honor and a responsibility to mentor the next generation of leaders, and I always learn something from the conversation.
This particular morning there was a theme that I think is a struggle for most every leader. The most frequent questions leaders have are: “how do I please the people that I serve in the workplace” and “is it important or necessary to do so”.
Some of you may instantly say, “Who cares what others think?” But even you, when under siege, care deep down about what others think. It is our human condition to care what others think. We want to be important. We want to matter. But yes, it can be a terrible trap to worry about what others think of you.
“Beware of seeing yourself through other people’s eyes. There are several dangers to this practice. First of all, it is nearly impossible to discern what others actually think of you. Moreover, their views of you are variable: subject to each viewer’s spiritual, emotional, and physical condition.”~ Sarah Young
This quote answers the question well:
- You will actually never know what most people really think of you.
- If you did, it might change later today or tomorrow. It is variable.
So how do we avoid this trap of worrying about what others think of us? Here are four guidelines you can apply to replace worry with something more actionable — your personal purpose and principles.
- Be Self Aware – Become self-aware of your specific talents and particular shortcomings. This is far more important than what others. When we gain an objective, honest perspective on ourselves, we know what strengths we have to leverage as a leader in the workplace. And we know what shortcomings we must navigate or overcome to avoid derailing ourselves. Know yourself well.
- Learn From The Patterns – Utilize your life experience to learn from the patterns. Whether we like our life experiences or wish they were different, we are shaped by these experiences. When you look back over your life, you will see patterns, lessons learned from the situations you have lived through – some good, some bad. These lessons have shaped who you are today. Learn from your life’s lessons.
- Choose the principles that will guide your leadership actions – All of us claim that we have principles or values that guide us, but for most people, it is a vague list, not well-defined, and not driving daily actions. What are the top three principles that you want to guide your daily actions as a leader? Put them on paper and live them.
- Choose Personal Purpose – What is your personal purpose? It is my belief that every leader has a unique set of talents, experiences, and principles. You have an opportunity to bring these gifts to serve the people that have been entrusted to your care. If you have a clear statement of purpose for your leadership, you will know why you came to work today and what you came to do as a leader. Your reason for serving the people and the enterprise will be crystal clear.
If you do these things, you will find yourself less stressed by the opinions of others. You will still get feedback from others, but you will be able to hear their feedback and concerns with a new filter – the filter of your personal principles and purpose. You can take the feedback that helps you best contribute your personal purpose. You can leave behind the feedback that is variable and incongruent with your principles and purpose.
No other person can know your personal purpose for being on the planet. But is important that you know – or you will be vulnerable, even battered about, by the variable opinions of others. Beware of this trap. Be on-purpose instead.