Coaching to Core Ideals – Other-Wise: Focused on Others

This is another post in the series Coaching to Core Ideals.

The IDEAL LEADER is 1) Visionary, 2) AUTHENTIC,  3) Disciplined, 4) Accessible, and 5) a Strategic Learner. See the Coaching to Core Ideals post to get a quick overview and context for the series. We are going to break each sub-topic down over the next few weeks.


  1. Knows who they are as a person of strengths and weaknesses
  2. Doesn’t hesitate to be engaged in meaningful dialogue with people at any level
  3. Is “other” focused

At first thought you might wonder…”What’s the connection between being an authentic leader and having a mindset or focus that is on others?” I would and I think it is a valid question.  As I wrap up the 2nd Characteristic of The IDEAL LEADER let’s reflect on who and what we focus on, AND how it impacts whether people experience you as an authentic person or leader.

Have you ever had someone in your career or personal life seem more interested in what was going on with them and their world then what was up with you?  How did it feel to be around that person?  It probably felt a little shallow and superficial.  Heck you might even had been a little bored after a while.  Self Awareness is likely low on their list of attributes.  It’s not that it is wrong to be that way, it just isn’t very powerful as a leader and can really be a big stumbling block to being an extraordinary leader.

I am not a social psychologist or academic.  My expertise and focus has been in the area of transition coaching and leadership development, but my masters in human resource development was based in 3 core pillars of basic theory.  Those 3 pillars were Economic, Systems, and Psychological theory.  There has been much discussion and program development within adult and human resource circles around the concept of “self”.  And I will be really simplistic in this blog post and try to make it very pragmatic by offering just two dimensions for the sake of delving into this concept.  This is a little crazy when you think that PhD’s and gurus all over the world have written or spoken volumes in this arena.  In short this post won’t get into, much if any detail in, defining or distinguishing a definition of the “Self that we are”.   My condolences for complexification (I made this word up a couple of months ago) and praise to the simplification in advance.

1) You can focus on yourself first and then work on others. This might be called self actualization from Carl Rogers’ theory on personality. There is a popular belief or discourse that we should…”understand ourselves (the “self” that we are) first before we try to understand others”.   In my interpretation this means, before you start trying to fix others you should fix yourself.  If you don’t know who you are and what makes you tick; well you can really be of little help to others that rely on you for counsel and advice.  Does it make sense to you?  Makes practical sense to me in many ways and can be considered more of a humanistic point of view.   The issue or problem that arises with this point of view is that sometime business and life events just do not afford the time to “self actualize” or engage others in self discovery.  The problem needs to be solved and quickly.  Even more central to this approach is we are impacted so greatly by others in almost every aspect of our being.

2) You can make your focus on trying to understand others and let go of being wrapped up in self discovery. This is a belief and philosophy that we should…”seek first to understand before we are understood”.   St. Francis of Assisi was most noted for speaking this as a prayer and then “Seven Habits” creator Stephen Covey also made it a part of his approach to personal development and action as a leader.  It’s Habit #5.  In short, doctors seek first to know what is wrong or diagnose the issue before they fix it.   We should not pretend to understand all the issues that are important to people and systems we lead before we attempt to fix or improve upon them.  The discourse in this point of view is powered by trusting that you will learn more about yourself as you learn more about others.  This conversation is more focused on being aware of the other “selves” that are outside our inside world of thought and focus.

My truth in all of this as a leadership coach and organization development professional is that each point of view has utility when coaching leaders to Core Ideals.  However, as I age I tend to invest more time in seeking out other’s stories and learning more about what makes their life/career work…or not.  Less time is focused on my own deeper self discovery because I have spent a lot of years with me.  I like me, but I find others more interesting and they possess new points of view that help me.  The amazing aspect of being other focused (focusing on others more than our self) is this.  Our own issues and problems become less of a focus and fade into the background in the present moment of life.  We allow our problems to be seen in the perspective of the lives of “others”.  We become OTHER FOCUSED!  We can then loosen the grip our own self focus (and well practiced stories) have on our own reality.

There is a simple and yet interesting mystery that many of us never come to realize.  We are never who we think we are.  Indeed we are always who other people think we are, because out there…outside our own self we exist in the minds and interpretations of others.  I have a simple technology that I developed with my first coach Jeff Brown.  It involves a set of questions that I have clients use to gain self awareness.  It is a brave adventure to discover what others really think of me or experience me.  The questions aren’t for the client to answer though.   They are the interviewer.  If they so choose to take on the assignment, they have a set of questions to take out and begin to interview others on how they show up in their life.  As an example, a few of the questions are below:

1)      Has there ever been a time that I’ve disappointed you or let you down?

2)      Is there anywhere or anytime I haven’t acknowledged you?

3)      How would you want me to interact with you so you would always feel honored in our relationship?

Email me at The Heartwood Group if you want to learn more.

The magic of looking at other’s stories about us is that it actually opens up a unique access point into our own picture.   We begin to realize that our point of view may indeed be valid or quite possibly built upon some very poorly grounded ideas of what really is so about us.  I do have a lot of experience and significant time invested in becoming more self aware as a coach and leader.   However, I have just learned that it helps for me to discover it through my investigation of what others think of me and less about my own assessments.  No doubt we are the final say and are the expert of “me”.   When we really get present with someone and take their feedback in we are always the one with the final say in whether it is something to act upon.  The Core Ideal of BEING AUTHENTIC is born out of intentions and not wishes. You can let go and be the real leader that your people and organization needs.  It is always about the “others” that are depending on us to lead them into better performance and more potent futures than otherwise would have happened by chance.

Next post we will start a Disciplined approach to the Core Ideal of Being Disciplined.  This won’t be sexy, but it just might have a breakthrough or two in it for your moving forward in developing into the leader you want to be.  If you liked this post let me know and pass it on….to OTHERS.

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