#1 – What am I good at and what am I not good at?
One of the most important leadership skills is emotional intelligence. A person’s emotional intelligence is a combination of 5 factors: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. Among these, self-awareness is ranked as the number 1 factor. An individual must know his strengths and weaknesses and must keep working on to maximizing his strengths and minimizing his weaknesses. By asking yourself this question and being self-aware, you train yourself to know your niche, know your market, and know how to sell yourself.
#2 – What are the three things that I can do better in my job?
You should always look for areas of improvement in your daily job. By doing this, you are also making your job more interesting by looking it from different angles and different perspectives. Read a lot and keep yourself up-to-date with latest trends in and out of your industry, see how others are doing, and apply new ideas to your job to improve it.
#3 – What did I fail today?
Ask yourself this question every day to train your mind set about failure. According to Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx (in this book The Startup Playbook by David S. Kidder), failure isn’t the outcome but failure means not trying. If you have to look at yourself in the mirror and say, “I didn’t try that because I was scared,” that is failure.
#4 – What could I have done better?
After you finish a task or a project or make an important decision, spend time to look back and reflect. According to Brian Chesky, founder and CEO of Airbnb, the 2 important traits that he’s looking for when hiring good talents are intelligence and curiousness. Interestingly, curiousness is as important as intelligence. You should admit that you don’t know it all and you should be shameless about getting feedback. By asking yourself this question (self-reflecting) and asking other people this question (getting feedback), you are indeed training yourself to be an infinite learner.
#5 – Where are my customers’ pain point?
No matter what you are doing, you always have at least a set of customers, either internal or external clients. Sometimes, you come up with your own ideas and try those ideas onto your customers. You should take the opposite approach instead, interviewing your customers, putting yourself in the shoes of the customers, and finding out what their problems are. After figuring out your customers’ pain point, you then find a solution for their problems. If you are doing this, you are improving your customer satisfaction and retention. Read my post on “Good account manager/ Bad account manager” in which I share more about client relationship management.
#6 – What important truth is very few people agree with me on?
Out of the seven questions that you should ask yourself every day, assign one contrarian question such as the above. Look around you, outside of your daily job, outside of your industry, outside of your comfort zone, to see what valuable idea that nobody is doing. Look for opportunities. Take your stance on different subjects. According to Peter Thiel, founder of Paypal and Palantir (as mentioned in my book review “Zero to one by Peter Thiel – Make 100 people love you”), whenever he interviews someone for a job, he likes to ask this question: “What important truth do very few people agree with you on?” A good answer takes the following form: “Most people believe in x, but the truth is the opposite of x”. His answer is: “Most people think the future of the world will be defined by globalization, but the truth is that technology matters more.” I know this question is a very hard question, because in school we are taught things that are agreed upon and it takes courage to think differently and un-popularly. However, it will train you to think profoundly. Keep asking yourself this question until you find the answer.
#7 – What am I not doing?
Most of the time, you spend lots of time reviewing, evaluating, and improving all of the things that you do. Sometimes, however, according to Ben Horowitz, founder of Opsware and Andreessen Horowitz (in this book The hard thing about hard things by Ben Horowitz), the things you’re not doing are the things you should actually be focused on. If you wanted to exercise more but you didn’t do so because you were lazy, do it now. If you wanted to take your parents out for a trip together and you didn’t have a chance to do it, do it now. If you wanted to play with your kids and take them out during the weekend and you couldn’t because you are busy with your work, do it now. If you wanted to automate the company process, discuss with your team and do it now. If you wanted to start your own company, do it now because the best way to learn is to “fail early and fail fast” and “be wrong as fast as you can”. Ask yourself this question as if today was your last day on Earth: “What am I not doing?” If this answer is something that you really want to do, do it now.
Self-reflection is a thought process that will help you improve yourself, to become a better person, a better manager, and ultimately, a better leader.
If you have another great question, please feel free to add.
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