As you know, this lesson is about defining the vision you have for yourself and developing it so that it serves as guide and perhaps even inspiring muse. This lesson is also an invitation for you to consider whether your vision could become a potent source of composure in your life, anchoring you when it feels like everything around you is up for grabs.
Before we go further, it is critical to clarify that expressing your vision at work comes with a measure of responsibility. Let’s take a closer look at three ways we need to be responsible in holding to a vision of ourselves.
- First, challenge and hold yourself accountable for your own continued growth and learning.
This means avoid getting too rigid about your sense of self; instead, challenge yourself to remain curious and open to new information. Often, coaching clients come right up to the brink of their most significant developmental edge and then want to stop there. They tell themselves they can stop where they are because the next hurdle or the thing someone is suggesting they try doesn’t feel comfortable or natural, so it must not be authentic.
“We become too comfortable with the status quo. In organizations, standard practices — the usual ways of thinking and doing — play a critical role in shaping performance over time. But they can also get us stuck, decrease our engagement, and constrain our ability to innovate or to perform at a high level. Rather than resulting from thoughtful choices, many traditions endure out of routine, or what psychologists call the status quo bias. Because we feel validated and reassured when we stick to our usual ways of thinking and doing, and because — as research has consistently found — we weight the potential losses of deviating from the status quo much more heavily than we do the potential gains, we favor decisions that maintain the current state of affairs.”
— Francesca Gino
Just because something feels really crummy doesn’t necessarily mean we can conclude it isn’t authentic. Pushing yourself beyond your known boundaries is often part of learning the very best lessons, so keep looking for how your vision needs to evolve.
- Second, be aware and respectful of your context.
This means choose a workplace that is a good fit, a place where your vision will be valued. Doing that requires an understanding of what is useful, needed, and appreciated where you work. Finding the right workplace requires that you know yourself and what you stand for. But being responsible with our expression doesn’t end there. It also includes taking responsibility for interacting with your workplace in a healthy and mature manner to identify the intersection between your vision and what your workplace needs from you.
Of course, interacting with your context in a healthy manner often involves a period of “testing the waters” to discover whether you have found a home for your vision. At the same time — when your efforts just aren’t landing — hold yourself accountable to have the wisdom, good sense, and self-compassion to find a better fit.
- Third, be in step with how your intentions are landing with others.
This means pay attention to the feedback. Feedback isn’t just what you get at review time; instead, you can tap into this source of insight anytime by listening deeply to others and by noticing how others respond to you. These perspectives help you learn, grow, and develop into your fullest and best self. As leadership expert Tara Sophia Mohr says, relevant feedback “shows up in how many job interviews you get called in for – and how many companies ignore your résumé…[and] when you say something in a meeting and it is met with awkward silence – or when you say something and everyone responds with excitement.”
More formal types of feedback need to be part of your success strategy, too. Getting direct feedback is how you learn the rules of the game you’re playing; how you know the standards you are being measured against; and how you know how you measure up against those standards. See feedback for what it is: Useful, relevant information for you to use to refine your approach; not what you use to define your entire worth as a human being.
- Can you lead from the point of view that getting and responding to feedback is the job?
Let the world be your lab. In this lab, each day can be about running experiments, seeing what works, and using feedback in all its forms to tune and tweak your approach as you go. Understand that tapping into a steady, regular flow of meaningful feedback can breathe life into your collaborative efforts and help you learn what the organization is learning in real-time.