I recently participated in a leadership 360.  If you’re not familiar, it’s one of those annoying survey things where you rate yourself on a bunch of subjective questions and a bunch of other people you nominate on your behalf rate you as well.  Then you get your results and some fancy, overpaid consultant (like myself) helps you get a sense of your strengths as well as your opportunities for development (the latter meaning weaknesses in organizational development speak) and helps you put together a development plan to address the gaps.

It’s interesting because as a leadership coach and trainer, I’ve administered them on other people’s behalf’s so many times, I just never had the opportunity to take one myself.  I wasn’t sure to expect.  I figured there would be a few things I would need to work on and had formed some assumptions in my mind as to what those things were.  But about halfway through the debrief, something strange happened.  I broke down in tears.  Not because I was sad, but because I was overwhelmed.  On every single measure (and there were a lot) I had rated myself significantly lower than my colleagues and peers had rated me.  Every single one.

We do not see ourselves clearly

How can this be?  I even course corrected for this.  I know I tend to be hard on myself, the recovering perfection junkie that I am.  I even took that tendency into account when I was rating myself and cut myself some slack.  Or so I thought…

But the results say what the results say.  Here I am thinking that I have a fair degree of awareness, and yet clearly do not see myself in the same way that others do.

I see this all the time in my clients.  The problem isn’t as much that we are often doing all these horrible things we are completely unaware of.  There are many assessments I’ve debriefed where a person has “soft spots.”  Qualities they rate themselves low on that others believe to be much higher.  When you think about the consequence and the cost of that, it’s huge.  If I don’t believe I’m good at something, maybe I don’t put myself forward for an opportunity.  Maybe I don’t dare to dream that big dream because I’m not sure I have the capacity to achieve it.  Maybe I find myself talking myself out of things.  I’ll go after it when I feel like I’m ready.  But what does “ready” even mean and how would I know if I’m there?  This is the circular thinking we often engage in that keeps us stuck in a rut.

Life is funny like this…while every coaching client is very different, many of us are really searching for and working on the same exact things.  I’ve often explained the practice of coaching as helping others see the incredible value they bring to the world and step into their greatness.  And who better than a neutral third party, as we often struggle to see ourselves for who we really are (present company included!).

The cost of not having clarity

It got me thinking (a dangerous thing I know):

  • What would my life look like if I viewed myself the way that others see me?
  • What would change for me?
  • What things might I take on or try if I viewed my potential as favorably as others do?

And then the idea of starting my own coach training program came to me as I let the results of the 360 set in.  It’s a lofty goal, an ambitious goal.  Something I’d put on the back burner into the dusty recesses of my mind.  I’d dismissed it so many times.  I don’t have the right amount of people skills to pull that off.  I’m not influential enough.  Leave it to the big outfits that know what they’re doing – they have the resources.  They have the networks.  The market is probably saturated anyway…

But maybe I do have something very special to give in this space.  I’ll willing to take the idea out of the closet now and think about it.  And it’s starting to grow legs.  Because I am now realizing the world needs that very special thing that only I can bring to the table.

What have you relegated to the dark and dusty recesses of your mind’s closet?

If you saw yourself more as others did, what just might you be prepared to try?


Shelley Pernot is a leadership and career coach who is passionate about helping her clients discover their strengths and talents and find a career that utilizes them.  Reach out to me here for a free consultation to learn more about the coaching process and how it may benefit you!

  1. Marsha April 19, 2022 at 9:45 pm

    Great writing!

  2. Ian Hallett April 25, 2022 at 4:00 pm

    Great piece! The 360 survey that my organization uses calls these areas hidden gems, and I have not seen a really great discussion of them until now – thank you!

  3. Nelson Nicholson September 28, 2022 at 8:51 am

    I need to to thank you for this wonderful read!! I certainly loved every little bit of it. I’ve got you saved as a favorite to look at new stuff you postÖ