Posts in Leadership
Four Signs That You're Full of Yourself
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There's no better example of a person who is full of himself than Francis Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey, in House of Cards.  The Netflix series, now in its fifth season, details a man (Underwood) obsessed with himself and his desire for power.  

It's bad enough that Underwood is consumed by a thirst for political office.  What's worse is that he has no compass for anything else in his life- no friendships, no hobbies, no religion, etc.  This makes for a very unhappy man.

I've been thinking of Underwood (yes, in part because I've been binge-watching the newest season of House of Cards) and the times when I might be full of myself.

No, not to the extent that he is but still, let's be honest: each of us has a bit of selfishness inside of us.  

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How can you spot a person who is really full of it?  I suggest four signs:

  1. They refer to themselves in the third person.  This is typically reserved for pro-athletes who almost always are full of themselves.  
  2. They are easily offended.  This is a character flaw and to be avoided at all costs.  Readers would do well to pick up a copy of Grit by Angela Duckworth. 
  3. They over-promise and under-deliver.  This leads to broken commitments and failed projects. 
  4. They publish every thought.  The filter just isn't there for people who are full of themselves.  They love to pontificate.

Take note this week of your vocabulary.  That will often give you clues of your pride-to-humility ratio.

A Boston priest, Fr. Thomas Judge (early 20th century) famously said, "Humility is truth".  I think what he was getting at is that life is full of imperfections and blessings.  It's good to appreciate both and not take yourself too seriously.  

Is it Ok to Be Insecure About Your Work?

I spent most of my career in a school.  When I was a teacher, I was trained to focus in on my students and connect with them to the point that they would learn.  As the saying goes, "it's not so much what you know but how much you care."

When it comes to students, that's so true.

When it comes to adults, it's also the case.  Your colleagues want to know that you're "for them".  Coupled with a deep sense of care for others is the ability to zero in on what's truly important for the organization.  

That's a balance that a good leader can manage.  On one hand is what's best for the company and on the other hand is what's best for each individual.  

Determining what's best for the organization is both an internal process (deciding together what we're about) and keeping an eye on "the market".  It's just smart.

Imagine how much Lyft and Uber study one another's moves.  Or Samsung and Apple.  Or Harvard and Yale.  You get the point.  You've got to be yourself and yet constantly be aware of what the other guy is doing.

This applies to each person in your organization too.  I want my team to play to their strengths, working in a way that gets the very best out of them.  I also want them to be aligned with the values of the team so that we can deliver exceptional results. 

But... what about those times when you lean more towards what the other guy is doing and not enough on being true to yourself?

It can be easy for a member of the team to occasionally experience FOMO or the Fear of Missing Out. Even with a clearly defined set of values and a healthy self awareness (e.g. I have our team take the Enneagram evaluation), you can wonder if you're "not doing it right".

This can rear its head when any of the following questions come to mind:

  • Am I working hard enough?
  • Am I fast enough?
  • Am I valuable enough to the team?
  • Am I bringing my very best to work each day?
  • Is my email inbox cleaned out?
  • Am I communicating well?
  • Is the other guy better than me?
  • Am I using the rights apps?
  • Am I managing my time well?

I've certainly asked myself these questions many times over.  Once, I had a boss give me some advice that I still carry with me today when I'm ever insecure about my work.  He said, "Mike, the only three persons that matter are God, your wife and your boss.  Other than that, the rest can think what they want about you.  You've got to just do your work and that's that."

Don't worry about FOMO or what the next guy is doing.  Focus instead on bringing your best energy, attention and diligence to work each day.  If you don't have a performance review in place, ask if your supervisor can give you one.  This is another anchor that affirms the quality of your work.

Is it ok to be insecure about your work?  

Yes and no.  It's honest to admit that we all have insecurities.  The key is, when one shows up, to channel it into the right direction and retain confidence in your best work.

One Clever Way to Chart Your Personal Growth

Productivity expert Carson Tate uses a wonderful tool to categorize folks according to their personal style of working.  

The Arranger

The Planner

The Visualizer

The Prioritizer

You can take the test here.  The book is even better as each chapter lets you just zoom in on the strategies that match your particular style.  As an avid book scanner, it was nice to be able to breeze through each chapter, not feeling guilty about it.

I'm a Planner first and a Visualizer second. My wife is an Arranger to the max.

Typically, when you take any assessment like Tate's (or Disc or Myers Briggs, etc.) it just gets filed and you move on.  I decided to do something different this time around.  I wanted to savor the assessment and link it to other measurements like Disc, Meyers Briggs and Enneagram.  

What if I could design a personal growth "tool" of sorts?  And, what if I could make it look nice?

The latter part was important to me.  Yes, I've written (in the past) my goals and posted them on my office wall.  Yes, it's worked.  What didn't work was the utilitarian vibe- I needed something stylish, something with some class.  


I use Canva daily (yes, daily) for reports, flyers, brochures, social media graphics and anything else in between.  It's nearly free and makes even the most basic designer look like a pro.  What if I could take my productivity style, along with a few other growth metrics, and create something out of it for my office?  Using Canva, I finally could.

Step two was to find a template in Canva that matched my office's aesthetic.  I chose a "resume" design- very simple and easy to manipulate.

Step three became more difficult as I had to limit the information to one page. The temptation in these things is to make it complicated.  Not this time, I told myself...

The final product included the following:  

  • Mission statement
  • Productivity style
  • Myers Briggs indicator
  • Disc rating
  • Enneagram rating
  • Quarterly goals
  • Spiritual growth target
  • Audacious career goal

Here's what the final product looks like in my office:


The value of this process was twofold.  First, it memorialized what I'm working on right now.  Second, it made personal growth much more than just a few ideas on a scrap of paper.  When you make something look nice, it gives it dignity and a proper place.  

Think- Baron Fig notebook as opposed to a cheap $1 version.

You can do this too.  It's that easy.  I've created a template for you to use for yourself.  It will save you about 15 minutes.  If you're familiar with Canva and want to do it on your own, that's ok too.  

Here's the download:

Free Personal Growth Template

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The real question is this: how are you capturing and honoring your own growth goals?  

Sometimes, Productivity Isn't Enough

About two weeks ago, something weird happened.  After a very productive week, I went home on a Friday afternoon feeling somehow unfulfilled.

My todo list was solid.  I had used my Daily Plan day after day as I have for years.  (You can grab a copy using the form below.)

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My quarterly goals, inspired by other practitioners, were in place.

Why was the weekend, ordinarily a delight, seemingly ominous as my week wrapped up?  

My life coach was very helpful after we talked about it.  His point was simple enough- you need more than productivity to feel happy.

I turned to Patrick Lencioni's book The Advantage, for some perspective.  Alignment is about "connecting with your why".  Patrick puts it this way, "Great leaders see themselves as Chief Reminding Officers as much as anything else.”

A great leader reminds the team why they do what they do.  

This affirms why the best companies are truly mission-driven.  Millennials more than any other group remind us of this.  Younger workers crave purpose more than just the hacks to shave a few minutes off their next meeting or the keys to getting to inbox zero.  

My own "hmpf" on that Friday was fairly normal after all.  After I had made sense of it, I decided to revisit my quarterly goals and my own mission statement.  These would, no matter what, inform my productivity.  I was resolute.

The weeks afterwards were markedly different.  The productivity remained but this time was animated by something deeper.  

When you feel fragmented or empty and you've been producing solid work, there are a few things you can do to reconnect with your own mission and purpose:

  1. Spend some time alone.  Get with your thoughts and write.  Why were you feeling shallow?  What is it about your work that you enjoy?  What part of it bothers you?
  2. Get away.  It may be time for a day off or a vacation.  If you've been running on empty, you just may be tired.  If so, stop working and recharge your batteries.
  3. Seek the advice of someone you trust.  Maybe you just need to talk to someone without being judged.  For me, seeing my life coach is invaluable and encourages me to reconnect my work with my mission.

Productivity isn't enough.  Connecting your work with your why, now that's where the magic happens. 

How to Connect the Enneagram to Your Work

If there’s a personality test out there, I’ve probably taken it.  

Myers Briggs was helpful as was DISC.  I’ve had my teams take them for years and have always learned something new about my colleagues as a result.

When was the last time you took a personality test?

These days, I’m using the Enneagram test to learn more about myself and my colleagues.  I first learned about this through the excellent podcast The Road Back to You with Ian Cron and Suzanne Stabile.  Their show is based on the book with the same title.

The Enneagram is an ancient test used by Christians and other traditions to help people understand themselves better.  The word means "nine ways".  

It turns out that Fr. Richard Rohr, one of my favorite weekend homilists (you can check out his podcast here) is one of the preeminent experts on the Enneagram.

How can the Enneagram make a difference in your work?  I’d like to suggest three ways:

1. The Enneagram will show you more about yourself than any other test.  This leads to greater self awareness.  For example, I’m a “1” on the test which has many blessings.  Unfortunately, it also brings some negatives such as a tendency to think that I’m right.  Now that I understand this better, I try to listen more and suspend my own opinions when I can.

2. The Enneagram will make you more humble.  As Fr. Thomas Judge once said, “humility is truth”.  When you know what you’re good at (and just as important, what you’re not good at), you’ll realize that you need smarter people around you at all times.  It will also help you to be confident when you’re in familiar territory.  Finally, it will let you know that you need help more often than not.

3. The Enneagram will make you more compassionate.  When you see that God has wired someone else a certain way, you immediately appreciate them more.  This makes you more effective at work as you learn one another’s moves and tendencies.  

If you haven’t taken a personality test like the Enneagram in a while, make an investment in your own leadership today.  I would guess than 10 minutes of assessment will lead to hours of understanding.  

How to Reduce the Number of Times You Apologize

Some people apologize when they've done something wrong- this is good.  

Others apologize all of the time.  You can spot them when they say things like,

  • Sorry to bother you...
  • Sorry to interrupt...
  • I'm sorry did I get you at a bad time...
  • Sorry to call you...

This latter group, those who practice "the apology reflex", have a problem on their hands.  They are either not convinced of their own value or feel guilty for achieving success.  I've worked with folks like this and not surprisingly, they rarely get promoted.

On the other end of the spectrum are those who never apologize- they don't get promoted either.

So what should you do to minimize the number of times that you apologize?  One simple tactic can help you with this: inventory your language.  Do you find yourself apologizing often for simple, innocent things?  When you recognize this trait, take a breath and hold it in. Chin up, just do what you were going to do but this time, without an apology.

You've got this!