When I was a VP in a corporate role, I got some 360-degree feedback. It was mostly extremely positive, but one comment read: “Tracy can be abrupt and I find her direct style too much.” I focused on that sentence above all others until the head of organisational development said to me: “Tracy, I think people should spend more time focusing on what they do right, rather than wrong.” Wise words indeed.
In my world as an executive coach, I constantly see so many talented people focusing on what’s wrong and completely ignoring what’s right. Highly driven, high achievers are often highly self-critical and nothing short of perfection will do. They are always looking to improve themselves, get even better and drive themselves to new heights. They are also brutal with themselves. Sound familiar?
If so, my top tip this January is simple: instead of writing a long list of New Year’s resolutions of what to do less or more of, spend that time and energy on acknowledging and owning all the fantastic qualities you already have. If you’ve got it – and you most certainly have – it deserves to be flaunted much, much more.
I know this will be hard for some of you over-achieving perfectionists, so here are my top tips:
Acknowledge them. Make a list (on your phone so you can keep adding to it and have it to hand) of what you’ve achieved in your life from large to small, they all count. You’ll be surprised that you’ve forgotten so many. Get a friend or colleague to help because you are likely to be too modest. Take a moment to let that list sink in properly and thank yourself for achieving it.
Look at the common themes – what assets has it taken to achieve these things? Expertise, knowledge, some serious professional skills? Whatever the assets, recognise them as something to be valued, not dismissed or taken for granted. Not everyone has what you already have. Imagine each of them as a merit badge stitched on to your jumper or a trophy on a shelf. I bet it’s getting pretty crowded.
It’s not just what you do, it’s how you do it. Others may have had the same role as you but how do you do it differently? Are you pro-active, tenacious? Do you think win-win? Can you charm the birds from the trees? Do you leave no detail unattended? Think about these as your super-powers, they are a unique part of you and what makes you stand out. Embrace those qualities!
By now you should be feeling pretty good but if that still hasn’t worked, get that list and stand in front of the mirror. Read out all of your accomplishments, assets and your qualities. Repeat them until it trips off the tongue.
Finally, and this may be the hardest step – learn to accept compliments. I think that, even taking flattery and exaggeration into account, for the most part the compliments we give and get are genuine. So, if someone applauds you or says you’ve done well or that you are great at something then, instead of batting it away modestly, accept it, digest it, believe it and, above all, enjoy it. And the next time you find yourself thinking ‘I should be more…’ stop and remember the multitude of things you have to celebrate already instead.
Tracy is a creative mentor for the Channel 4 Indie Growth Fund, the producer of the WFTV mentoring scheme and a professional executive coach. Follow her at walterwootze.com