You can learn a lot from an artist.
I should know; I happen to be married to one. For instance, have you ever watched an artist look at his or her own piece of art? Part of the evaluation of that piece of art takes place by just looking hard at it, or walking by it. You might be very surprised to know what my wife considers her two favorite ways to evaluate her work.
One of the ways she evaluates what she’s working on is to go is to the biggest mirror we have in our house. She’ll hold her piece of art up for a long time, and if you watch her when she’s doing it, as she scrunches up her face, you’ll swear she’s seeing that piece of art for the first time. In fact, from the perspective that the mirror provides, she is. She sees the image in reverse, so she sees the composition in an entirely new way. It gives her objectivity and the ability to see the artwork with fresh eyes.
The second place she’ll often go is to her camera. She’ll shoot a few pictures of her artwork, and either print them out or look at the image on her camera. You’d think that a picture of a picture would not be of much value, but she swears she can see things that her existing perspective just doesn’t provide.
The challenge she is working through is a problem that many artists struggle with; it’s difficult for an artist to see his or her own work as others see it. The mirror and the camera are two classic ways to manage this situation. Those of us who aren’t artists also have to learn how to manage a similar situation; each one of us struggles with it and in order to evolve, we must come to grips with it:
Most people are unable to see themselves as others see them.
This is not just a minor blind spot; it can represent a challenge that can significantly impact our path to success. Without an alternate perspective, like an artist, it’s nearly impossible to see things that others see. When I conducted two–week training programs for Xerox, the trainees would be videotaped roleplaying sales calls every single day. The process each student would follow was detailed, and measurable. As an instructor, I would meticulously go over every process behavior modeled.
I made a point to make little to no comments about personal style issues such as appearance, gestures, and facial expressions. That was because each night, every student’s homework assignment was to evaluate his or her performance and provide written feedback in the morning. Watching those videos allowed them to gain a different perspective on how they looked and acted. It was feedback that was every bit as powerful as the feedback they were receiving from their professional trainers. To this day, is it any wonder that I use that tool when I’m working with smaller groups or coaching individuals? I bring out the iPad and I film the role-plays or presentations, and I make those videos immediately available to my students. I want them to see themselves as others see them; not just in the way they see themselves.
When you’re working with people and you’re helping them to see themselves as other do, it is critical to remember that this “evaluation” must be conducted in a balanced way. You must make sure that your feedback is not just stressing what someone is doing incorrectly. The piece that most are unable to see themselves can often represent something powerful and wonderful. It may be human nature to want to focus on negative feedback, but positive observations are critical as well. If someone is unaware of something powerful they are unable to see in themselves, but others see, that strength can easily be lost.
It is difficult, if not impossible, to see yourself as others do. The only way you can accomplish this is by stepping out of the box a bit. Maybe it’s a mirror, a picture, a video, or a trusted friend, but we cannot trust our personal instincts alone. When you truly see yourself as others see you, you can make some of the greatest strides imaginable. One of those amazing strides is to chip away at self-doubt which impacts one more challenge so many of us struggle with; the simple act of believing in ourselves.