At church over the weekend, I had the pleasure of hearing an excellent discussion around one of the most well-known (by Christian and non-Christian folks alike…) passages in Bible:
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
Matthew 7:1-5 (NIV)
While I have heard this passage discussed many times, what struck me was the pastor’s observation that it does not really suggest that as a blanket approach we should never judge anyone (as it is often interpreted.) Rather, the primary message is to make sure that before we address an important matter with someone that we first inspect ourselves with the same standard to ensure that we have clear vision going into that conversation.
An eye-opening reminder for important matters of faith, as the sermon continued to explore – but it also got me wondering how it might apply to the daily life of a leader.
Think about it.
As a sales leader, a large part of our job description is built around evaluating (or, “judging” if you’d like) the team we work with. Nearly every day we are coaching selling skills, analyzing performance, conducting competency reviews, addressing problems, giving advice…the list is endless.
Given that fact, how much time do WE spend in self-inspection mode – measuring our own performance with the same standards that we expect from those we are privileged to lead?
The answer for me: not enough.
While I believe the value of introspection is likely endless, here are 3 important benefits that self-inspection can bring to our leadership approach and coaching interactions:
The passage from Matthew 7 suggests that by inspecting ourselves first, we’ll be able to see clearly to then call someone else out on an important matter. Nothing brings clarity to a coaching situation quite like putting yourself into the other person’s shoes and measuring your own performance. It provides a 3-dimensional picture of the situation versus the 1-dimensional view we often have looking in from the outside. How have you felt in that same situation? What challenged you when dealing with it? How did you overcome it? While leadership is never about YOU – this kind of inspection provides a level of clarity around what THEY are going through which has incredible value.
With 3-dimensional clarity often comes a degree of humility. Humility is a word that can be taken many ways, especially in the world of leadership. For this discussion, I’d suggest it’s a posture that lacks false pride or arrogance. If you’ve identified a selling skill that someone on your team needs to improve, a time of reflection around your own challenges and success with that skill (currently or in the past) allows you to approach the coaching table with a grounded and potentially modest mindset. This does not mean weak or wishy-washy coaching – quite the opposite. It means that you’re able to identify with the person you’re working with in a very human way that can help your message be received openly and powerfully.
While a sense of urgency and drive are clearly needed in the realm of sales leadership, this can quickly and easily turn into impatience and frustration in coaching situations without self-inspection. As with humility, this doesn’t imply being soft or tolerating underperformance for endless periods of time. Performance needs should always be addressed right away and directly. It means that we are able to set appropriate expectations and timeframes on skill or competency development from a point of having first looked at our own development for clarity.
Our lives as leaders are full of opportunities to take the time for self-inspection. Not beating ourselves up or over-thinking everything…just good, solid reflection on the topic at hand from our own perspective. Give it some thought this week and feel free to share some comments from your own perspective…
- What have your experiences been with taking time to reflect or self-inspect as a leader leading up to important coaching situations? How has it helped or hurt?
- Do you have ways of doing this formally that work for you? Informally?
- Do you totally disagree with me? 🙂
Thanks always for taking the time to stop by the blog. I appreciate it more than you know and value your insights.
Until next time,