How to avoid ‘CEO Disease’ and become a more self-aware entrepreneur

Expressed opinions Entrepreneur Contributors own.

The time-honored folktale “The Emperor’s New Clothes” tells the story of a leader who was too proud (and in vain) to see a very clear reality. He was very strong and intimidating to get open response from his official advisers.

As it turns out, power can ruin our ability to see ourselves clearly and to get honest feedback in real life. Consider the current controversy surrounding the disrespectful founder of Theranos. In fact, studies show that although most people think they are self-conscious, only 10-15% actually do. What’s more, the higher we climb the corporate ladder, the greater the risk of losing touch. Organizational psychologist Dr. Tasha Urich called it “CEO Disease.” As he writes, “Just as experience can lead to false confidence about our performance, it can also lead to overconfidence about our level of self-knowledge.” Eurich cited a study where more experienced managers were found to be less accurate in assessing leadership effectiveness than less experienced managers.

For entrepreneurs, self-awareness is important: well-performing companies tend to have more self-aware leaders. As CEO of Jotform, being self-aware helps me make better decisions for our company, and more importantly, our 10 million users. It doesn’t always come naturally – instead, it takes an active effort and coordination with my team.

Here are some expert-supported strategies that have helped me develop a greater sense of self-awareness.

Read more: 12 Self-Awareness Exercises That Fuel for Success

1. Set up multiple feedback channels.

First, when we say “self-awareness”, we are referring to how we view ourselves and acknowledge our state of mind at any given time. It also means keeping pace with the way other people see us. Response is a strategy for achieving both types of self-awareness.

So far, it has been well established that feedback should be regular and ongoing, for example, as opposed to a single (stressful) annual review. But some companies, such as the hardware company Scrufix, take it one step further and set up two-way channels for feedback: employees regularly respond to managers and vice versa. For Scrufix, the practice leads to employee-driven initiatives that facilitate the customer experience. This is a great way for entrepreneurs and employees to better understand how others view them. It can break down any barriers to receiving a candid response as a leader.

After all, what Urich calls “loving critics” – you could call them his faithful advisers – are people who have the best interests at heart and are willing to tell you the truth. In interviews, Eurich and his team found that those who improved their outward self-awareness regularly sought feedback from their loving critics.

Even if it means uncomfortable talking – feedback can be a hard pill to swallow, especially when it comes to our business – getting constant feedback from both colleagues and those you trust the most will help you quickly increase your self-knowledge. .

2. Ask “what” or “why”.

Sometimes, too much introspection can lead to a lack of self-awareness – especially, according to Eurich, when it leads to helpless and imaginative thinking. To tackle this trend without abandoning important introspection, Urich suggests a subtle change: ask yourself “what” instead of “why”. He explains, “The ‘what’ question helps us stay purposeful, future-centered and able to work on our new insights.”

So instead Why do I always feel awful after a meeting?Try What happens during the meeting that makes me feel a certain way? What can I do to change that? This will help you to analyze the situation with a more neutral eye.

The same rule applies to questions directed at your coworkers and partners – ask what, why not. For example, Robert S. Kaplan writes about how one of his clients, the CEO of a medium-sized pharmaceutical company, was fighting with his team and questioning his leadership ability. Kaplan advised him to ask a single question in his direct report: “What advice would you give me to improve my performance? Please give me one or two specific and effective suggestions. I would appreciate your advice. “

Although the conversations were a bit awkward at first, the CEO got amazing and quite helpful advice.

Creating questions for us and others in the “key” format helps to cut through emotions and gain effective insights.

Read more: Why self-awareness is the key to innovation

3. Practice regular self-reflection

One ultimate strategy for building more self-awareness occurs on a personal level: establishing a regular practice for self-reflection. For example, you could try meditating, literally looking in the mirror (and tracking your attention and emotions) or keeping a journal. Even though I start with the pages every morning, the emptiness of any idea swirling in my head, I try to find some regular time for more structural reflection.

Celeste Viciere, a licensed mental health practitioner, told MSNBC: “When you’re journaling, focus on your day. Ask yourself how you feel. If there are negative feelings related to the day, think about which triggers could be their bubbles. For any positive feeling, think about what inspired you to be happy.

Brenda Ellington Booth and Karen Kates, writing for The Kellogg School of Management, explain that self-reflection must be purposeful and strategic, considering what is most important to individuals and organizations. “Self-reflection is not just looking back; This allows you to be proactive rather than reactive. “

In other words, “know yourself” is not enough. Try to build self-awareness by focusing on positive change and managing your emotions effectively; Be the person you want to be – and your company needs you.

Read more: Why developing self-awareness is the key to managing your time

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