My Reflected Best Self Essay

Your Reflected Best Self

September 30, 2010

By Laura Morgan Roberts

The Reflected Best Self Exercise(RBSE) is an innovative leadership and career development tool, used by thousands of emerging and established leaders in premier executive education programs, corporate talent management initiatives, required and elective Masters-level and undergraduate degree programs, professional development seminars, adolescent internship programs, and family and friendship circles. The RBSE is a multi-step process that helps people to discover and activate their best selves. This process involves reflecting upon moments in one’s life when a person was at his or her best, examining these best-self episodes closely for cross-cutting themes and variations, and composing a best-self portrait (written or multimedia) that captures the essence of the qualities and behaviors a person exhibits when at his or her best. The most valuable aspect of the exercise is gathering “contribution stories” from colleagues, clients, friends, and family members, which allows understanding of an individual’s best self as reflected by those who know him or her best. Some students are hesitant to seek RBSE feedback, because they are concerned that other people may perceive them as arrogant. Yet, the exercise proves to be a valuable learning experience for learners of all ages. The majority of my students receive feedback from 60%-70% of the requested providers, and many of the providers express their appreciation for the opportunity to share how someone has made an important contribution. Less than 5% of the feedback providers express concerns about the exclusively positive focus of the exercise, or submit feedback that describes the student’s weaknesses instead of their contributions.

The debrief session is a critical aspect of the RBSE. During the debrief session, participants discuss their key learnings, core assumptions, and action plans. The action planning phase deepens the impact of the RBSE by advancing students’ developmental agenda for generating extraordinary outcomes in organizational contexts. Using the best self as a platform for growth and development is powerful, because the action plans aim to actualize potential for making extraordinary contributions. The underlying assumption is that the knowledge of one’s best self is grounded in the reality of one’s prior contributions, not on an idealized, unattainable image of who a person hopes to become.

Facilitators, faculty or coaches might ask students to reflect upon four key questions to develop their action plans:

  1. What actions can you take to be at your best more often? Students can generate a list of their best-self enablers (personal and situational factors that activate their best self) and blockers (personal and situational factors that inhibit their best self).
  2. What actions might you take to make your best self even better? This question refers to longer-term efforts toward developing in one’s areas of strength, and becoming even more skillful in the application of these strengths.
  3. What actions can you take to promote continuous, life-long learning about your best self? What reflective and feedback-seeking practices will you adopt to refine your best-self portrait as it evolves over time?
  4. How can you bring out the best in others? Leadership development programs can explore how to foster environments in which employees can engage their best selves more often, and make their best selves even better.

Web Page and Related Resources

Reflected Best Self Exercise

Job Crafting Exercise

Personal/Professional Alignment Questionnaire

This exercise asked me to seek out feedback from others about me at my best. I was a bit uncomfortable, at first, asking others to shower me with compliments, but the responses I got were more thoughtful than I could have imagined—they gave me new perspective into how others perceive me and the lasting impressions I leave on them.

One of the more interesting findings in this exercise was that the feedback I received seemed to suggest that I am very good at managing relationships, and that I am in tune with others’ emotions. This contrasts my Emotional Intelligence Assessment, where my scores were weak in relationship management. I’m not going to put too much stock into either result at this point, but I do recognize that in this particular exercise, I was getting feedback on my best self, and I’m certainly not always my best self.

The conclusion of the first phase of this exercise asked me to reflect in writing on the responses I received and to craft a reflected best self portrait.

Reflected Best-Self Portrait

I am at my best when I am engaged with others. I bring my own unique ideas to my life and my work, but I don’t attach ego to those ideas; instead I am eager to share them with others, to hear what they think, and to deliver finished products that reflect the diverse perspective of my teams.

I listen carefully and I understand deeply the ideas and opinions of others.  I make sense of complexity, combining common threads from diverse viewpoints and identifying differences that need to be reconciled. Then, I communicate effectively, to help those around me understand that complexity, and chart paths forward.

Because I place so much value in input from others, I create friendly and inviting environments where their perspective is welcome and valued.

I take pride in my personal integrity, make ethical decisions, and challenge convention and tradition. When necessary, I chart my own course, and inspire others to follow with sound reason and logic.

How I Got Here

Below you will find my analysis of the individual bits of feedback I received, and an aggregate review of the recurring themes. This analysis informed my Reflected Best-Self Portrait

Reflected Best Self - Individual Stories

Story AuthorMy positive behaviors, contributions, etc...Story theme and personal declaration
Family Member 1helpfulness, putting others firstI make helping others succeed a priority in my life.
Family Member 1honest, patient, objectiveI listen to others patiently, and offer honest, objective feedback.
Family Member 1effective and thoughtful communicatorI put myself in other people's shoes and clearly communicate ideas to help them move forward.
Boss 1effective communicatorI tailor communications appropriately for my audience, and incorporate team input into the final product.
Boss 1open to feedback and other perspectivesI am genuinely interested in what others have to offer.
Boss 1ability to establish consensus and move forwardI manage competing demands and build consensus to keep projects moving.
Colleague 1good eye for storyI tell stories that evoke emotion.
Colleague 1compassion, sense of humorI create friendly and fun work environments.
Colleague 1eagerness to learnI ask important questions that clarify goals and objectives.
Boss 2bringing out the best in othersMy leadership style is non-threatening, and inviting.
Boss 2compassion and loyaltyI am considerate of others, even if it means bending some rules.
Boss 2old fashioned valuesI make ethical decisions, even if they are unpopular.
Colleague 2distilling complex ideas into understandable partsI use communication skills to frame groups ideas in meaningful ways.
Colleague 2steadinessI navigate stressful situations effectively.
Colleague 2ability to listenI hear what people are saying and what they are not saying.
Family Member 2work ethicI don't shy away from hard work.
Family Member 2enjoyable to spend time withI value time spent with others.
Family Member 2individualityI make my own decisions, through sound reasoning rather than popular opinion.
Family Member 3individualityI don't follow others off bridges.
Family Member 3sense of securityI have a stabilizing influence on relationships.
Family Member 3humilityI don't beat my own drum.
Colleague 3willingness to take on a challengeI enjoy solving complex problems.
Colleague 3unique perspectiveI think outside of the box, and bring unique perspective to teams.
Colleague 3effective communicatorMy communication style resonates with my audience.
Colleague 4strong strategistI always have a plan, and I keep projects moving forward.
Colleague 4integrity, trustworthinessI follow through on my responsibilities.
Colleague 4maturityI am comfortable with who I am, and not afraid to ask for help.
Family Member 4creativityI bring creativity to everything that I do.
Family Member 4reliabilityI make plans that are easy for others to understand.
Family Member 4individualityI value alone time, and am comfortable in my own skin.

Reflected Best Self - Aggregated Story Reflection

Patterns/ThemesDeclarationsExamples Given
Consideration of others' values, ideas, and circumstances.I believe my own ideas are made stronger with input from others. I appreciate the diverse values and perspectives that others bring to bear, and I am respectful of circumstances that impact my relationships.Added value to collaborative writing process.
Listened carefully to other's ideas.
Understood a difficult personal situation.
IndividualityI am confident in myself and my abilities and I ground my decisions in sound reasoning rather than popular opinion.Chose my own path, for my own reasons, when everyone around me was moving in a different direction.
Explained the difference between being alone and being lonely
Disagreed with the majority and supported my position effectively and persuasively.
ReliabilityI honor my commitments and work hard, even in the face of significant challenges.Supported a colleague when my work load was heavy.
Supported a family member at a busy time in my life.
Supported a former boss in a difficult personal and professional situation.
Effective CommunicatorI synthesize complex ideas into understandable communications. I use story to persuade, and connect.Produced an effective video chronicling a unique academic experience.
Gave a speech that inspired others to join my team.
Built a website that concisely communicated ideas to unique audiences.



Filed Under: Self ReflectionTagged With: Reflected Best Self

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