July 30, 2015 | Thoughts

Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom

Pia Infante, Co-Executive Director and Trustee of The Whitman Institute, explained how to navigate interpersonal dynamics in the workplace.

Self-awareness is key: leaders and employees must consider how they are perceived and how they impact others, and recognize that few people have an accurate sense of how others perceive them. Three different frameworks help us all understand the differences between our self-perception and our actual impact on others:

  • The Ladder of Inference explains how observable data can lead to an erroneous belief about others, and that we must realize our assumptions and interpretations of others’ actions might be wrong.
  • The Johari Window is a framework to show that what we know about ourselves and what others know about us are often different, and that by communicating with others we can learn more about our blind spots, where the impact of our actions on others differs from our own perception of our impact.
  • 360 degree performance management can be a structured organizational process for comprehensive feedback from superiors, peers, and subordinates. Pia suggests using an anonymous online survey sent to all people who you interact with, sent once every 12 to 18 months. This does not obviate the need for continuous communication and feedback day-to-day.

Self-awareness is critical for co-leadership models, where more than one person has ultimate responsibility for an organization and no one is “the boss.” Despite the status quo of seeking out a single charismatic leader, co-leaders can support each other both emotionally and in making decisions. But co-leadership also comes with a greater need for managing interpersonal relationships, as openness, equity, and teamwork are essential for success.

A few tips:

  1. Recognize the richness that diversity (e.g. on Myers Briggs) brings to your leadership team and adjust your communication based on personality types
  2. Spend time developing a friendship with your co-leaders
  3. Set aside time to discuss the tough “undiscussable” topics or you’ll always put them off

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom” credit to Aristotle.