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12.16.05 Issue #197  
When Are You at Your Best? Give yourself a gift by focusing on strengths.

Dr. Nancy Haller
Executive Coach
McKenzie Management

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Did you know that when people are asked to recall important emotional events they remember four negative memories for every positive? We’re hard-wired to pay more attention to negative information. Survival instinct.

You’ve heard the saying, ‘You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar’. Behavioral psychology has proven that humans respond better to praise (honey) than criticism (vinegar).

Now think about your ratio of positives to negatives, from the things you say to your employees to the silent messages you give yourself. If you want to develop your leadership skills, research tells us that you are more likely to gain ground by leveraging your natural skills than trying to fix your weaknesses.

The Harvard Business Review recently dedicated space to the concept of "Reflected Best Self" (RBS) as a method of developing executives. By having a sense of their ‘personal best’, executives are more likely to increase their leadership potential. Organizations are finding the results yield big pay-offs in the bottom-line.

The RBS exercise is not intended to stroke your ego or ignore problem areas. The purpose is to develop a plan for more effective action. This requires commitment, diligence, and follow-through. It helps to have a coach to keep you on track. To obtain the most useful feedback necessitates some planning. Here’s how it works.

First identify approximately 10-15 people in your office and outside of work who know you well (a minimum of 10 people is needed in order to make this useful) – employees, vendors, colleagues, friends, family, church or synagogue members. By soliciting input from a diverse group, you’ll gather a richer understanding of yourself.

Ask them to provide you with at least two examples, stories, and/or incidents of you at your best. The request should be in writing so they can think about their answers. Email works great. The more specific or detailed those descriptions the more impactful the feedback. Explain that the goal of this exercise is to increase your understanding of how others see you when you are at your best as a basis for strengthening your leadership effectiveness.

The Questions.

1a. One of the greatest ways that you add value is:
1b. For example, one that was most meaningful to me was a time when:


One of the greatest ways that you add value is:
Providing clear expectations about what you want, and explanations about why those tasks are important.

I think of a time when:
Last Monday in the morning huddle, you reviewed the schedule and the time problems as a result of two emergency walk-ins. These kinds of days usually get everyone stressed out. You reminded us that while we wanted to get through the schedule, more importantly, we wanted to serve our patients and do good work. You reminded us of what we were capable of doing and how each of us could contribute to a better outcome. As a result, we saw everyone that day and we all felt proud of how we worked together.

The third step is to collate all the feedback. Look for ‘common themes’ or patterns. In most of the executive coaching I have done, the uniformity is remarkable despite the diversity of the feedback givers. Once you have identified those strengths, write a two- to four- paragraph narrative beginning with the phrase, “When I am at my best, I…” Think about this as your self-portrait, or your “possible self”.

Last but not least, share your when-I-am-at-my-best portrait with staff and others who participated. Ask them for ideas on how you could better exploit your talents and strengths. Consider using this model to develop your staff. When each person discovers who they are when they are at their best, it’s a gift to everyone. Happy Holidays!

Dr. Haller can be reached at  She provides Executive Coaching for McKenzie Management and conducts one-on-one leadership training.

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