And would some Power the small gift give us
To see ourselves as others see us!
It would from many a blunder free us,
Robert Burns “To a Louse“
It can be very difficult to understand how we appear to others.
When I was rehearsing the “2011 New Years Greeting” there as a monitor next to the camera that offered instant replay of a take. I was surprised at how serious, almost fierce, that I looked in some of the early takes. Those of you who have worked with me may be less surprised than I was. It’s a challenge to look into a camera and make a short statement, and my concentration made me look much more serious than I realized.
A lot of the work we do is improvisation: it’s live in front clients, working with them in negotiations and sales calls with their customers, or preparing for presentations that are part of negotiations and sales calls. We work in a private wiki where they see every draft of what we are working on with them (and vice versa) with typos and awkward phrasing and all. We almost always work in at least a pair, so there is someone else from the team who can point out how we are coming across. Often a partner who is not directly involved, or who was the least involved will do a quick after action call on a project to get candid feedback on how we can improve.
I record most of my talks and listen to them again at least once. Many are now on video now as well. It can be uncomfortable to listen to yourself, and worse to look at yourself, but if you can maintain enough emotional distance you can actually improve.
I have come to realize that nothing works the first time, I have to rehearse, review, and refine so that I can hit the goals I have set for myself. I don’t always like what I see but I don’t know another way to achieve high performance.