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Great learners are objective and neutral assessors of themselves, and that allows them to be accurate about what it will take for them to improve. It took a bit of conversation, but eventually she came up with three benefits that I could tell were motivating to her: She would enjoy being able to advise the senior team more holistically on legal issues with global implications; she was excited by the idea of building a truly global team (they were operating in U.S. and non-U.S. silos at this point); and she was intrigued by the idea of traveling more and becoming familiar with other cultures through her team members. I asked her to envision herself in a couple of years: successfully heading up a strong, worldwide legal team; being seen as a more valuable partner to her peers and boss; and building her knowledge of the global business scene through personal experience and deeper relationships in the regions where the company was doing business. As she shifted her focus from difficulties and obstacles to the good things that might happen for her as a result of this new learning, her aspiration started to increase. Soon she was ready to move on to developing the other ANEW skills. Neutral self-awareness. Most of us aren’t very accurate about our own strengths and weaknesses. Some of us tend to think we’re more skilled or accomplished than we actually are—and some of us are unrealistically tough on ourselves, believing we’re less skilled at things than is actually the case. Great learners are objective and neutral assessors of themselves, and that allows them to be accurate about what it will take for them to improve. If, for instance, someone thinks he’s an excellent manager but really is not,

42 I AMA QUARTERLY I SPRING 2016

it’s unlikely that he’ll be open to suggestions about how to be more effective. This support might include offers from his company to attend training or get a coach and tips from more skilled managers. On the other hand, if someone is more “fair witness” about his strengths and deficits as a manager, he’ll be more likely to accept support to improve in the areas where he knows he’s lacking. The best way to become more neutrally self-aware is to notice, and change, how you talk to yourself about yourself. Being able to recognize and manage your self-talk in this way is a powerfully useful skill (and is, by the way, at the core of the remaining three ANEW skills). To support Emily in learning this skill, I asked her what she was saying to herself about her knowledge of global leadership and legal issues. It turned out she was being unnecessarily hard on herself. Her mental monologue included statements like “I don’t know anything about international law” and “I’m clueless about how to manage lawyers in other countries.” I encouraged her to ask herself, “Is my self-talk accurate?” As soon as she questioned her negative assumptions, she realized that they were too extreme. She was able to then ask herself a second question: “What facts do I have about myself in this area?” When she reviewed the facts, she acknowledged that she had some experience with and knowledge of international law, especially in her specialty of employment law, that she

AMA Quarterly Spring 2016  

Journal of The American Management Association

AMA Quarterly Spring 2016  

Journal of The American Management Association