Collaborating - First Know Thyself

Posted by Mike Kaaks

23 June 2013

Knowing yourself is not just accumulating the results of tests and feedback. It requires honesty. Deep honesty. Sometimes with that comes the pain of acknowledging, and the pain of letting go, but these are like portals to a new view of life and the world. The pain is short-lived and the rewards of living in the light of that new view are so many, so varied, and so rich. I find this easy to talk about because Knowing Myself is my highest value. As a result I have to be a little careful when I extoll its virtues, so be aware, this is the toned down version of things.

The subject is in my mind now because I'm reflecting on the questions I will use with a group of young leaders to get them to be really open with each other. The benefits I'm selling are clear. If they are to get the absolute best out of collaborating with each other it will come from their diversity and a preparedness to challenge and be challenged without becoming defensive; by engaging without any sense of risk. Doing this requires inner strength and confidence, feelings which are easier to allow to the surface when we are confident in our knowledge of who we are.
Yes, those psychometric tests are a helpful part of this, so is the feedback you've been getting over the last few years, but only if you understand what they mean for your being, then write what it is they are saying into the narrative of your being. Your story. This is where it can get hard. We often think our story has to have something of what the audience WANTS to hear. I think we've all put in words which suit the occasion, especially in a work setting. Who wants to risk letting the world know what is unique about themselves. Who doesn't want to take the opportunity to enhance one's career by building in some of the corporate mantra. The reason I've picked on this behaviour is that if it works at all, it is only for the short term. Humans' radar is pretty good. In many cases people will read the shallowness of such comments as they hear them. When they can't read them in that moment, the coming weeks will show up any difference between the narrative and the reality.
But if you know yourself, and share with others the real self with whom they are going to be working it creates a strong connection where the diversity rather than the similarities are the strength. Small groups make better decisions when their members are fully aware of each other, when all members are prepared to challenge, and when all members are ready to listen. The challenge I speak of is not just about nay-saying a point made by someone. This is a challenge to bring out all your beliefs on the topic in review. The sorts of things that are often said around the coffee machine but not so frequently in meetings. The risk that we feel comes from speaking up, actually resides in the opposite, in not speaking up. This is beautifully portrayed in a video you can find in YouTube called the Abilene Paradox.
Deep self awareness provides the strength to speak up, to collaborate and make great decisions together.