CSA is delighted to share Aboodi Shabi’s latest blog post:
‘We’re blind to our blindness. We have very little idea of how little we know. We’re not designed to’ – Daniel Kahneman
A couple of months ago, I was facilitating a session in a large organisation; my session was an exercise for teams to look at how different energies play out with each other, with each person being ascribed a particular energy to role-play in the group. As usual, at the end of the exercise, we had a group de-brief with people sharing their learning experiences.
One of the participants shared that the exercise had helped her to see her preferred style in someone else: “I’m normally someone who has a lot of ideas; I’m constantly coming up with new projects for my team. Being on the receiving end of it is exhausting! Now what I know what it must be like for people who work with me to be on the receiving end of me!” She went on to say that she hadn’t seen that before, and that she now had something to reflect and work on.
I loved that phrase, which is why I’ve chosen to use it as the title for this piece, and it reminded me of an experience I had some time ago when I was in a therapy group, and someone gave me the feedback that I came over as arrogant and pompous. Of course that wasn’t comfortable listening, but it did give me some very useful insights into how people might experience me. And if I, like the participant in the session above, want to work or blend more effectively with others, then it’s very useful for me to hear what it’s like to be on the receiving end of me.
You don’t have to be on a course with me or in a therapy group to get this kind of perspective on yourself, of course. 360 degree feedback is designed to provide exactly that – a perspective other than our own which can help us to see something about ourselves that might make it hard for others to co-ordinate with us, or that might get in the way of our professional (or personal) effectiveness.
Ontological coaching works in part because the client has someone outside themselves reflecting back on how they are showing up – a key tenet of this kind of coaching is that we all have cognitive blind spots – things about myself that I don’t even know I don’t know. And I often say that the primary reason why coaching works is not because the coach is smarter than the coachee, nor more experienced, but because the coach is differently blind than the coachee. It’s one of the ways in which external coaches bring value – they are not blind to the organisation’s ways in the way that an insider is.
And, on a personal level, we can ask trusted friends to give us this kind of feedback – asking questions about how they experience us can help us to see what we can’t see by ourselves.
If I want to grow as a human being, as a leader, as a fellow-worker, as a partner, then finding out how I affect others is a key part of that growth.
It’s worth adding a caveat that this isn’t about giving up who we are, nor even about seeing bits of ourselves as bad, but about recognising that the impact of ourselves on others will not always be received the way we intend – every positive aspect of our being can also have negative impacts on some people or in certain situations. But the more we can be aware of that, the more we can learn to build range for the sake of having greater impact in our personal and professional lives.,
If you want to take this learning further into your life, take a moment to think about whom you might ask for such feedback. That might take some discernment – a free-for-all where everyone tells you just what they think about you might not be the best thing! Whose opinions might you trust and be willing to hear?
You might also like to think about a specific domain – perhaps there’s a particular challenge you’re facing where you need a perspective on how you might be getting in your own way, for example.
If you do get feedback that you assess to be valuable, how might you begin to practice a new way of being? For example, to return to the examples of the participant and of myself above, what might help someone develop the capacity to focus on one thing at a time, or to build humility?
Aboodi Shabi: firstname.lastname@example.org
Don’t miss Aboodi’s Brighton workshop: