How self aware are you? How well do you know yourself? Do you know how others perceive you? “Insight: How To Succeed By Seeing Yourself Clearly” addresses these questions and more. Its author, Dr. Tasha Eurich, distinguishes between internal — how we perceive ourselves — and external self awareness — how others perceive us. To be truly self aware, Eurich argues, we need to gain both an internal and external perspective. She references a tool developed by psychologist Richard Weissbourd which is called “Zoom In, Zoom Out”. To successfully take others’ perspectives in highly charged situations, Weissbourd advises, we should start by “zooming in” on our perspective first to better understand it. Next, we should “zoom out” and consider the perspective of the other person.
The importance of perspective taking is the prime learning I took away from reading “Insight”. In the book, Eurich stresses the need for a flexible mindset, where we’re open to multiple truths and perspectives. She talks about developing a “learn-well mindset”; channeling our thinking to focus on learning over performance. Here are some useful ways to help develop such a mindset:
What Not Why
Personally, when I encounter a problem or a situation, I’ll be the first to ask “why” and explore why something is happening or why I’m feeling a certain way. When coaching others, I’ll often focus a conversation on why the other person wants to change. This isn’t a bad thing per se, but there’s a risk that we don’t get to the ‘actionable’ part of our insights or emotions. Eurich encourages us to ask ourselves about the “what”. She explains that “why questions draw us to our limitations, what questions keep us curious.” What can I do? What do you like? These kinds of “what” questions are geared towards personal growth, to seeing our potential.
Such a simple but powerful tool; spending five minutes at the end of every day reflecting on the following questions:
- What went well today?
- What didn’t go well?
- What did I learn and how will I be smarter tomorrow?
Reframing means that we look at our circumstances, our behaviours, and our relationships from a different angle. I know from experience how easy it can be to be drawn into a single view of a circumstances, and therefore struggling to find a good way to change things. Eurich suggests to instead look at the good and the bad from multiple angles, as a way to help maximise our insights and chances of success.
Eurich introduces solutions mining as a way to “think less and understand more”; not only spending time on problems, but also dedicating a good amount of our efforts to exploring different ways of solving a problem. If you want to increase your ability to mine problems for solutions, Eurich recommends a tool called the “Miracle Question”, developed by Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg:
Suppose that one night, while you are asleep, there’s a miracle and the problem that brought you here is solved. However, because you are asleep you don’t know that the miracle has already happened … Think for a moment … how’s life going to be different now? Describe it in detail. What’s the first thing you’ll notice as you wake up in the morning?
The Miracle Question can provide some valuable insights into potential solutions to a problem and forces to think more broadly about our aspirations. It can act as a great question for when you’re coaching someone or trying to get yourself or someone else to open up a whole new level of insight.
In the book, Eurich also offers valuable pointers on how to create awareness at a team level; “if being individually self-aware means who you are and how others see you, a self-aware team commits to that same understanding at a collective level.” She shares the Five Cornerstones of Collective Insight for teams to regularly assess and address:
- Objectives — What are we trying to achieve?
- Progress — How are we doing? How are we progressing towards our objectives?
- Process — The processes we’re employing to achieve our objectives.
- Assumptions — Our assumptions about the business and our environment. Do they (still) hold true?
- Individual Contributions — What impact is each team member having on the team’s performance?
Eurich interviewed Allan Mullaly, the former CEO of Ford and Boeing, who utilised a regular “Business Process Review” meeting to make sure that teams would share their collective insight. These meetings would evolve around these key questions:
- Do we all know the plan?
- Do we all know the status of the plan?
- Are we all aware of the challenges the company is facing?
Mullaly is clear about what leadership isn not: control the every move of your employees. Instead, he explains in “Insight”, that leaders should help connect their employees with the bigger picture, give them the right tools and provide them with the space to make mistakes whilst still holding them accountable.
Finally, Eurich shares useful tips on how to give and receive feedback, highlighting the need for us to find “loving critics”. Loving critics are those people who will be honest with us whilst still having our best interest at heart. In contrast, “unloving critics” — the type of people who criticise everything we do — or “uncritical lovers” — who would never criticise us — aren’t very helpful if you’re looking for feedback which can help you grow as an individual or as a team.
Main learning point: Reading “Insight” made me realise how awareness is a like a muscle that you have train regularly if not daily. In the book, Eurich elaborates both on the internal and external aspects of self-awareness, and how to continuously nourish both elements.
Related links for further learning: