A couple of weeks ago, I sent this request to friends and colleagues of mine:
I’m defining my niche, the place where I expend the most energy and have the greatest impact. If you know me well, will you email me with 2 or 3 words you would use to define me? I appreciate your help.
What I got back was very interesting. The average length of time the responders knew me was 18 years! Had these been superficial contacts, they would have seen what everyone else sees when they first meet me: gorgeous, brilliant, humble, etc. Sadly, these were not casual acquaintances.
I clustered their descriptive words and phrases to see where there were similarities or patterns. Everything my friends and coworkers sent me fell into neat, clean boxes:
- Character/Values: Who am I at my core?
- Psychology: What drives me? Does my satisfaction come from producing outcomes, or am I all about the journey?
- Mental: How does my mind work? What mental capabilities do I carry?
- Social: What role do others play? Do I use them, or do I enjoy them?
- Style: What talents are uniquely mine?
My friends cut past all of the things I want to be true about myself, and they described the real me.
Want some insight into yourself that you’d have to pay a therapist or bartender a boat-load of money to hear? First, look in the mirror and be honest with yourself. Second, ask those closest to you to describe you honestly.
By the way, courageous leaders don’t wait for a performance review or a 360° survey to find out how they are perceived. They seek out this kind of feedback actively and continuously.