Little Known Hack for Overcoming Any Personal or Professional Challenge
By Tim Schuster
Great leaders make great decisions and strategic moves. They treat co-workers with respect and dignity. As constant learners, they teach and mentor and coach. Leaders define reality and communicate a vision for how it could be. Great leaders set goals, achieve objectives, and so with the motivation of making the world a better place.
However, it takes decades to master (that is: when it is mastered). But anyone, anywhere can speed up their learning with one simple leadership hack. Try this simple mental experimental to overcome any leadership challenge.
It’s a very simple thought exercise: Imagine hiring yourself as a consultant to your project.
See your situation through new eyes, and become your own coach. It starts by asking, What would a great leader do if that leader were me?
Three simple steps:
1) Write a half-page case study of your project. Write objectively by stating facts. If you are a 32 year old non-profit founder in Houston struggling to grow her donor base, write it like this: “In Houston, there is a 32 year old founder of a non-profit that wants to expand their mission and donor base. Their mission is to… They started in the year… Their biggest success so far is…. And they are currently struggling to…” Inserts facts, key events, questions, challenges, and problems. Keep it short, concise, objective, and accurate. After all, it’s just a case study.
2) Now, read your half page case study as if you are not the subject. Read it as if you are reading about someone else. Feel yourself emotionally detaching from the project and gaining clarity by accessing a variety of vantage points. The goal here is to make the subjective objective.
3) Then, take it to another level with these questions: What kind of advice would you give this person? How would a consultant approach this? What advice could be given? What process or framework or tool or paradigm would be helpful to this situation, group, team, project, or challenge? What did the case study not mention that you feel is important?
What would an amazing leader do with the problem or dilemma in this case study? Use this exercise to gain empathy for yourself, objectivity about your situation, and clarity around priorities for your next leg of the journey.
What this may reveal
Watch how you gain healthy emotional distance from the project. Be aware of what happens inside you. Gain empathy for yourself as you realize that we're not alone. Of course, our work is much more than a case study, but at the end of the day, embracing our humanity can only help us develop a healthy relationship with our work.
It’s worth noting that while this activity and mindset is almost always valuable (not to mention a never-ending effort), we also believe that actual consultants and coaches can help us achieve perspectives and points of view that we simply will never see without them. In fact, this exercise may reveal the need for an actual consultant – “If I was that person, I’d hire some experts.”
A tip of our hats to the professional and personal development scholars who have worked tirelessly to uncover the subject-object theory of human growth.