Blind Spots

There are things we are often unable or unwilling to see about ourselves and they are the things that are most likely to bite us in the butt.

Carved into the entrance of the temple of Apollo at Delphi was the immortal aphorism “Know Thyself”, although not in English, of course. Although the other 2 maxims said to have been there are also interesting, this one piece of oracular wisdom has stayed with us through the centuries. It seems even the bone-casting oracles of Delphi knew well enough to remind us all that understanding starts with ourselves. For centuries since we have been trying to do just that… understand ourselves.

I have recently had cause to contemplate how often we don’t see ourselves clearly, having begun a new job that I do not have so much knowledge, experience or points of reference for, I realised quickly that I would not necessarily know how well I was doing. Aristotle said that knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom, but he was a few centuries too early to know about the Dunning-Kruger effect where we often tend to think we’re better at things than we really are. Having awareness of logical fallacies does not always stop one from falling prey to them.

It could be said that the whole self-help industry has been built on helping people figure out how to know themselves. Much of coaching, in its purest ontological form, is holding a mirror up to people to reflect back the things about themselves that they can not see, both good and not-so-good. It was through this process of self-discovery that I became able to see things in myself that I liked and loved and things that I really didn’t and wanted to work on.

So much of the journey to success is about whom you need to become to achieve your desires but for me, I didn’t really have many goals or desires in life other than living day to day and hoping things would sort of work out and that I could have some fun from time to time. The things I do regularly now, even like writing this newsletter, seemed so far away from me and my ability.

I can see now that I was again waiting for someone to hand me the keys to success and set me on a path rather than choosing my own. Even then, there was a part of me that knew I would never feel comfortable having success handed to me. The desire for something more in my own personal achievements matched with a seeming lack of opportunities led me to sink into some low places emotionally.

Self-knowledge is important but so is some level of external validation. As a coach, I have often helped clients to get to a place where they are far less concerned about what others think of them, but never completely unconcerned. Not caring what others think at all is the territory of malignant narcissists and sociopaths and a million miles removed from the emotional intelligence we usually hope to demonstrate.

If you really let go of caring what anyone thinks about you, you could turn into a complete a***hole and you would not receive the external feedback to be aware of it or the desire to change course. Wanting to be liked is okay but needing to be liked by everyone will lead to problems. Finding the balance between not limiting yourself due to fears of what others may think and caring enough to still value feedback can be challenging to many, especially those who are not used to seeking or receiving feedback as a growth mechanism.

I see this highlighted in the podcasting world. There are many show hosts lacking awareness of how good or how bad their shows are and there are a great many people guesting on shows who have no concept of how good or bad they are as guests. There isn’t a Toastmasters club for podcasters where you can go and get the kind of feedback you really need to be able to develop and improve your podcasting game, but perhaps there should be.

Having been a Toastmaster, I am well used to receiving feedback on my performance, style, preparedness, tonality, message, confidence, clarity, charisma and more. In the sales coaching program I attend, these are also the things that tend to be the basis of feedback as well as listening to what is and isn’t being said, personal connection and a few other things. These ‘soft skills’ can be the most important ones in your ability to develop professionally.

I saw this stated very well recently on LinkedIn, and forgive me that I don’t know who said it but, hard skills are the ones that get you hired, and soft skills are the ones that get you promoted. In podcasting terms, your hard skills, experience and expertise can land you the guest slot but it is your mastery of the soft skills that determine how much you will be promoted to their audience. Podcasters will not keep quiet about an amazing guest who blows their socks off (not literally, of course).

How can you do this? Who can give you feedback on your podcast performances as a guest? Well, you could start by listening to yourself on playback, as objectively as you can. If there’s a video, watch that too. Toastmasters would not be ideal, even if you’re an active member there’s a limit on listening time, you would only be able to ask for this once without it becoming boring for people and you are not guaranteed any professional-level feedback.

You could hire a public speaking coach but you’re not exactly doing public speaking here. You could ask the host for feedback but they’re unlikely to want to give you many of the negatives since you’ve just done them the big favour of being on their show and they may want you to return at some point.

My advice would be to get some specific coaching on being interviewed, get some feedback from interviews you’ve already done and be prepared to put in some work to turn your public profile and your personal appearances into something you can really leverage to become known and even sought after, not just as a guest but also as a coach, speaker, author or whatever it is you’re looking to become known for.

Don’t just sit on this hoping that you will become better over time. You will improve naturally but you will accelerate your journey with some external help and someone you are paying to highlight what you’re doing well but also help you correct the things you’re not so hot on. Don’t sit on this. If you’re serious about becoming known through podcasts, leaving things to chance is not a strategy at all, it’s negligence.

I’ll offer help where I can with my newsletters and the Podfluence podcast when it starts back in September but I would also ask you to set an assignment for yourself, if you’re taking this seriously, find someone who you think has a great interview style as a guest and start thinking about why. What do they do well? How prepared are they to answer questions? What are the parts of their interview that stand out? Please feel free to let me know who you choose and what you discover.

Whilst I’m on a podcasting hiatus, which I have to say is really replenishing my creator energy, I want to remind you that there are some terrific episodes in my back catalogue of Speaking Influence with some incredible guests. One such guest is the funny and super energetic Jessica Breitenfeld who I am also happy to say has made it through to the quarter-finals of the Toastmasters world championship of public speaking this year. Way to go Jessica and best of luck! In this episode, we discuss clowning and improvisation plus Jessica puts me on the spot for some improv. If you want to know whether I succeeded or had an epic fail, you’ll have to listen in.

Each week I offer a song to help you with your emotional state management. Whether we like it or not, as podcast hosts and guests we are performers, we have to be. You have to bring performance energy and that means intensity needs to be dialled up. I think next week’s article will be all about tonality and the need to dial that up but until then… enjoy this club classic from Yazz. It really is the only way.

Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com.

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John Alexander Ball

John Alexander Ball

Host of the Podfluence podcast. Professional speaker & ethical influence coach. The James Corden of podcasting, a chubby British guy who thinks he’s funny.