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Ross Professors Appear in Harvard Business Review

2/9/2005 --

Reflected Best-Self exercise guides us beyond "good enough."

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – So you're ready to take the steps to finding your "best" self and becoming extraordinary?

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, "How to Play to Your Strengths," Gretchen Spreitzer, Jane Dutton, Robert Quinn, Emily Heaphy and Brianna Barker of Michigan's Ross School of Business and Laura Morgan Roberts of Harvard Business School, give readers a step-by-step guide to the Reflected Best-Self exercise. Now, you can begin the journey in realizing your "best" self.

Before you begin, the authors caution that the tool is not designed to stroke your ego, but rather assist you in developing a plan for more effective action. In the end, it should help you remember your strengths and learn how to deal with your weaknesses. The exercise requires commitment and, if used correctly, can help you tap into unexplored areas of potential and improve your work performance.

The first step is to collect feedback from a variety of people inside and outside of work, including family members, past and present colleagues, friends and teachers, to develop a much broader sense of self than can be obtained from a standard performance evaluation.

Feeling uncomfortable asking everyone for positive feedback? Just remember why you are doing this–your "best" self awaits you. The authors suggest e-mailing your contacts which can be more efficient as you can cut and paste the responses into a table. It may also be a more comfortable approach for you. You should ask them what your strengths are and to give specific examples of when those strengths were meaningful to them.

Step two is to recognize patterns. Look for common themes among the feedback. If you are unaware of your strengths, the exercise, according to the authors, "can be truly illuminating." Take the feedback from your e-mails and create a table of three columns as this will make it easier to identify similarities. The first column can be "common theme," the second can be "examples" and the third can be "possible interpretation," where you translate the themes and examples into your own words.

The next step is to compose your self-portrait. Here, you will take the information you've collected and write a description based on what others have said and your own self-observations. The authors suggest beginning this exercise with the phrase, "When I am at my best, I..." Documenting it in narrative form helps you draw connections between themes in your life that may have seemed unrelated before. The process of composing your self-portrait requires time and commitment but the result should provide a renewed image of who you are.

The last step is to redesign your job description and build on what you're good at. Most likely, your strengths identified in the exercise can be leveraged in your current position, prompting you to make small changes in the way you work or how you spend your time. Who knows, those small changes could result in a promotion, or you could find that your current position isn't the right fit for you. Either way, you're one step closer to your "personal best"–and isn't that what's most important?

Related story: Mirror, Mirror on the Wall...Reflecting on Extraordinary Potential

For more information, contact:
Heather Thorne
Phone: (734) 936-8421
Email: hthorne@umich.edu