Daily Approval

Are you willing to source your approval from within instead of from the outside?

In my experience, this is the question most of us can’t answer in the affirmative. Unbeknownst to our conscious, we’re constantly jockeying our behavior to elicit the approval of others.

Recently I was coaching an executive. While he was traveling overseas, one of his direct reports sent out a company-wide email saying his operations had a major problem with their inventory.

For two weeks this executive’s wheels spun about how his teammate just threw him under the bus and how bad he must look to the rest of the team.

Here’s the important thing to remember: That’s completely understandable and normal. But what is key is to understand what is really troubling him: is that his peers don’t approve of him or his work.

So I asked him a simple question: How much do you approve of your work? There was silence on the other end of the phone.

Suddenly he had a realization -- he’d been doing this for over 5 years, and when he took over the operation, he had improved the business by leaps and bounds. Over those 5+ years, he’s very proud of the work he’s done. But in the day-to-day minutia, he second guesses his work because his default move is to outsource his approval to others.

The lightbulb went on for him: Why do I approve of myself over the long term, but not in the short term?

That was a key insight he had that day. It was a moment of waking up, and worthy of further exploration. He will likely find it has to do with him disregarding his successes (where there are many) and focusing on his failures (where there are very few). In the long term, it’s easier to see all of the success. In the now, it’s pretty darn easy to see where you could be doing better.

Where do you source your approval? From within, or from others? Is your view the long term and how friendly and accepting are you to yourself in the short term?