[Editor's Note: "Failure is the mother of success.” Thomas Edison tried thousands of light bulbs before he discovered his life-altering solution. Howard Schultz approached 242 investors with an idea for a chain of coffee shops. Nearly 220 of them refused the concept for Starbucks. It took Marie Curie years before she was able to isolate radium.
In this essay, Geoff Curtis, EVP and CCO at Horizon Therapeutics, discusses a self-awareness lesson that changed his professional and personal life.
For 12 years, I was in the If you want it done right, do it yourself camp. Any thought of delegation was a sign of weakness. I wasn’t anti-team or anti-collaboration, I was independent. Maybe it's because I am an only child, and lacked trust in everyone other than myself.
In addition, I had a very high bar when it came to quality–one only I could surpass. It was a stressful, tiring and downright miserable existence. More important, it was miserable for teammates and colleagues. Are there a few of you, or more than a few, who can relate?
As a tactician, I was advancing. But not as a manager. Self-awareness wasn’t in my vocabulary.
The turning point came in 2009-10. 18-hour days meant work-life balance was non-existent. After 12 years, I hit a wall.
A Journey to Self-Awareness
That same year, 13 of us were sent to a three-day off-site to learn to be better leaders, better colleagues and better people. I was skeptical. I'd listen and maybe learn something. It was intense. I got the mental slap in the face I needed.
From understanding what and who I could and couldn’t change, to how I was showing up every day, to trusting myself and others, to letting go of the outcome. This off-site was an awakening and the first step in becoming self-aware–it changed my personal and professional life. Fast forward 10 years and I’m still working every day on all of the above.
3 Steps to Get There
The first step is understanding that self-awareness isn’t tangible or metric-driven–you can’t say that you gained three points in self-awareness last year. It’s more of a sixth sense. Once you realize you have it and are acting on it, you feel empowered, which, as a result, empowers those around you–trust me, I’ve seen it happen.
The second step is to consistently put in the work. I work with psychologists both at and outside of work and I offer my leadership team the same opportunity. There will be missteps and reversions to old habits, but that is expected. Self-awareness is all about repetition and identification–in time you will get better at identifying reversions and fix them quickly.
The third step is also important–share what you learn. It’s one thing to offer teams an opportunity to access the same learning resources, but it is another to share them. Hone the skill together. It's worth it.
The bottom line–you owe it to yourself and your team to be the best tactician and manager you can be. Being self-aware is a big step in getting there. But you can’t do it alone.
Geoff Curtis is EVP and CCO at Horizon Therapeutics plc