My Twitter profile is 22 words. It is not who I am, but it is all that thousands of people will see.
Our public persona is increasingly defined by arbitrary character counts demanded by a social media-dominated world. Faced with that kind of external pressure, it’s only natural to define ourselves with our strongest parts.
While our definitions are truthful, they are not whole.
I wrote last week about how, as leaders in business, in politics or in our homes, we’ve honed our skills for interacting with the external world. Yet sometimes when we fail to cope with the distress that surrounds us, whether it’s business fallout from the COVID19 pandemic or the frustrations of home life under quarantine, we wonder which tool we lack.
The resource you need to tap may be a dormant inner quality that you tucked away in your haste to craft a public persona that elevates your perceived strengths and minimizes your perceived weaknesses.
What we amplify and what we diminish becomes our “profile.” The difference between that public profile and our most powerful self becomes our “Performance Gap.” When you connect with your center of well-being, all of your key qualities work in harmony.
By dismissing some of our inner qualities, by leaving those parts behind, we diminish ourselves. We actually don’t come to life’s challenges as our most powerful and complete selves.
As leaders and managers, we’re expected to look clear-eyed and holistically at our companies or our teams to identify underperforming divisions or people, devise clever performance improvement plans, and get them humming along to their full potential.
If we want to lead ourselves to our full potential, we need to apply that same clear-eyed, holistic scrutiny to ourselves to identify our own under- and over-performing qualities.
Let’s start with who you are. If you had to choose one word to define yourself, what would it be?
For me, it might be self-reliant. Since childhood, I have seen myself as strong, confident and resourceful, and those are the qualities that I advertised to the world. That was my public persona.
When I upended my life a decade ago to move from the United States to the Netherlands to be with my husband and his young son, I couldn’t understand a word of Dutch. Suddenly I ate dinner at 18:30 and set the living room thermostat to 21 degrees. Estimating driving distances in kilometres and converting cups of ingredients in recipes to millilitres flummoxed me. There was simply no way I could do everything for myself.
I had to acknowledge another character trait: vulnerability. And I had to ask for help — occasionally from a five-year-old child.
Through that journey, I discovered I could be both powerful and vulnerable.
We don’t like to advertise or sometimes even acknowledge our own vulnerabilities, but they are part of what makes us whole. In truth, those parts we delete for our profiles often have a lot to offer.
Acknowledging vulnerability, for example, may endow you with the power to ask for help, and asking for help may be the one missing piece that will allow you to accomplish a goal.
To close your performance gap, you need to look closely at your inner profile and adjust it so it can serve you in whatever circumstances you’re living now. Can what you once perceived as weakness actually be a valuable skill to tap under the right circumstance?
If we learn to appreciate the interplay of our internal experience and the world we see around us, if we expand the story of who we are, we can live and lead from our full power and our full potential.
We are more multifaceted than our 160-character bios reveal. If we reconnect all the parts of ourselves, we can engage them to build our center of wellbeing, the inner core that gives us the strength and capacity for skillful action.
Next week: How to recruit members of your inner team and put them to work