1. Cox, Sharon MSN, BSN

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Q In my evaluation session with my director, she mentioned that she sees me "getting in my own way" and asked me to think about how I can change my responses to be more effective. I'm unsure about next steps after receiving this challenging feedback.

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Your director is doing you a real favor by being honest about behaviors that are in your blind spot, often referred to as self-sabotaging behaviors. As you may have guessed, the first step in dealing with self-sabotage is to bring the behavior into awareness, which your director's feedback did for you. Increasing self-awareness and taking ownership for personal change builds emotional intelligence-a key skill set for effective leaders. In her best-selling book, Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg emphasizes the value of uncovering blind spots. She writes, "How can I do better? What am I doing that I don't know? What am I not doing that I don't see?"1


Start with the feedback you were given or ask your most trusted colleagues what they see you doing that's self-defeating. The answers may include behavioral patterns such as procrastination, self-promoting, difficulty delegating, personalizing, being judgmental, or victim thinking rather than proactivity. "Name it and claim it" so you can deal with the behavior. When you find that you can be less defensive and more accepting of your blind spots, you may also want to ask your direct reports what you can do better. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable promotes honesty and trust, modeling the value of self-awareness for those around you. And routinely receiving upward feedback helps create a level playing field and build relationships. The point is to be authentic and let go of the need to be perfect.


The next step is to consciously choose a different response instead of reacting and falling back into old patterns. To have a more thoughtful response, you must be intentional; it isn't going to happen by assuming that a quick fix will work. Be painfully honest with yourself to understand what triggers the self-sabotaging behaviors and learn the art of reframing to better manage the negative self-talk that may be hindering your efforts. There's a gravitational pull to long-standing behavior patterns, so celebrate small victories and practice self-care to promote mood management and a sense of personal balance. Remember to be patient with yourself and seek advice or develop a mentoring relationship if needed.


You'll know when you've reached the final step in this process as the new behavior begins to come naturally. When the better responses are woven into the fabric of how you do things, you'll have grown in your ability to be self-reflective and take ownership. Periodically check in with your director to get her feedback on the changes you've made. One of the most helpful things you can do is to have an accountability partner to support you in sustaining these changes over time. You may even find yourself at some point thanking your director for caring enough to be honest with you. Like all "lessons learned," this work will make you a better coach for those with whom you work and add to your leadership toolkit.




1. Sandberg S. Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. New York, NY: Random House; 2013:83-84. [Context Link]