Category: Self-Awareness

Search Inside Yourself To Unlock Your Full Potential

Search Inside Yourself

Heather Wray-Isquierdo, Tere MacIsaac, Mike MacIsaac

Last night my wife Tere and I attended a great event by the Minnesota High Tech Association (MHTA) and Women Leading in Technology (WLiT) program. The keynote speaker was executive coach Heather Wray-Isquierdo. Heather did a wonderful job! She explained the benefits of practicing mindfulness and emotional intelligence. She also provided easy to put in place techniques. You can learn more about Heather at her website.

“Search Inside Yourself” is a training program first developed at Google. The program aims at teaching mindfulness and emotional intelligence. The training has become popular and is now used in 30 countries around and the world and companies like Ford, LinkedIn and The New York Times. For more on the training, check out the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute.

With all the distractions and stress we face today, it’s becoming more important we learn how to quiet our minds. It’s ironic, the more technology advances, the more we see a need for basic human connection skills. Working in IT, I’ve been saying for a long time that we have a gap in emotionally and socially intelligent leadership. The notion that IT people only need to use left brain and analytical thinking is flawed. Technical knowledge and IQ are still important, but they are not enough.

Thank you to MHTA, WliT and Heather Wray-Isquierdo for putting on such a great event! Below are some pictures.

Tere and Mike MacIsaac

About the Author: Mike MacIsaac is the owner and principal consultant for MacIsaac Consulting. Mike provides leadership as an Agile Delivery Consultant and IT Project/Program Manager. Follow Mike on Twitter@MikeMacIsaac or visit Mike’s blog.

How the lakes of Minneapolis helped me develop leadership

I took this photo of Lake Harriet in November 2010

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” – Albert Einstein

In 2005 I hopped on a plan in Newark and left my home state of New Jersey. I left the land of Bon Jovi and “the Jersey Shore” behind and relocated to Minneapolis Minnesota. I was 28 years old and at a crossroads in my life. I needed a change, so I moved to a city I knew nothing about other than the fact that I knew Prince (RIP to my favorite artist) was from there. I also heard the winter temperatures dropped to some crazy cold level.

In first year living in the twin cities, anxiety consumed me. The move to Minneapolis was the biggest life change I had ever made.

I got around town via bus and I lived in a small apartment next to Lake Calhoun. Lake Calhoun is one of the many gorgeous lakes in Minneapolis. This is me at lake Calhoun back then.

Ever since my arrival to Minneapolis the lakes drew me in. We had lakes in New Jersey, but not like these. Calhoun is at least 3 miles around and connects to a chain of other lakes. Beautiful homes and paths for cycling or jogging/walking surround the lakes.

When I would ride the bus home at night, I felt a sense of calmness when the lake came into view shortly before my stop. Whenever I got the chance, I would take walks by the lake. I realized the walks help to ease my anxiety and clear my mind.

I was also fortunate back then to have a 5th floor apartment , albeit small and old, that had an awesome view of the lake. My favorite pastime was sitting on my couch enjoying the lake view while having coffee (often playing my acoustic as well).

The lake brought me a sense of calmness and joy. Today, 12 years later, I still live in Minnesota. Now 40 and married with two daughters, we live out in the burbs but still spend time by the lakes of Minneapolis.

The below pictures are of my daughters Emma (4 yrs old) and Allison (4 months old) enjoying Lake Harriet. My family is my greatest joy 🙂

So now that you know how much I and my family enjoy the lakes, what does this all have to do with leadership? This blog post was supposed to be about how the lakes helped me develop leadership right?

Spending time by the lake helped me improve my self-awareness through the practice of mindfulness.

Self-awareness is the gold standard for leadership. It is the foundation of emotional intelligence.

You see, what I didn’t understand (but could feel) back when I was 28 was that my walks by the lake helped to quiet my mind. The outside noise and distractions of the daily rat race fueled my thoughts, and most of my thoughts I could do without.

The walks by the lake helped to subside the noise so I could check my thoughts and feelings. It allowed me to become more present in the moment and decompress from stress or anxiety.

By improving my self-awareness through my lake walks I also improved my leadership. This affected me, my family, and my work. It enabled me to put things in perspective.

Leadership is not only about leading others, it’s also about leading ourselves. By leading ourself we continue to move towards a higher plane of existence based on our core values.

How do we practice mindfulness to develop self-awareness?

When most think of mindfulness, they think of meditation. Practicing mindfulness though doesn’t mean you have to sit with your legs crossed and your arms in the air. We are all different and for me, the walks by the lake worked well. For you it might be something different like traditional meditation. Or it could be an activity like painting. Only you can decide what works best to help you become more present and self-aware.

There’s no shortage of materials available to learn how to practice mindfulness. If you want to learn more, two of my favorite authors on self-awareness are Daniel Goleman and Bill George. What I like about them is that they relate the importance of self-awareness to leadership.

One thing’s for sure, in today’s society we could all benefit from slowing down and becoming more present and self-aware. This is especially true in the US where we are so politically divided and stressed. Combine this fact with the distraction of social media and the internet and it’s easy to become lost in the vortex of noise.

We can’t lose focus of what’s important in life. Our family, our health, and helping others is what’s important.

PS – If this is a topic you enjoy I highly recommend watching Innsaei which is available on Netflix. It’s about getting in touch with intuition and not relying only on rational thought.

About the Author: Mike MacIsaac is the owner and principal consultant for MacIsaac Consulting. Mike provides leadership as an IT Project and Program Manager as well as an Agile Scrum Master. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeMacIsaac or subscribe to Mike’s blog.


Why leaders need to practice humility to develop self-awareness


Know thyself is an ancient Greek aphorism used by philosophers including Plato and Socrates. Ben Franklin stated: “There are three Things extremely hard, Steel, a Diamond, and to know one’s self”.

Self-Awareness is often referred to as the most important trait in leadership. Bill George, author of Finding your True North, writes that leadership skills start with self-awareness.

So what does it mean to have self-awareness? Webster defines self-awareness as knowledge and awareness of your own personality or character. Daniel Goleman writes: “Self-awareness means having a deep understanding of one’s emotions, strengths, weaknesses, needs and drives. People with strong self-awareness are neither overly critical nor unrealistically hopeful. Rather, they are honest-with themselves and with others” (Golmean, 1996).

I discovered that to develop self-awareness, you’ll need to practice humility. I once did a 360 peer review and was shocked when I saw the results. Everyone said I was poor at exactly the thing I thought was my strength! How could this be? It was a great learning experience but my ego took a hit. So get ready to be humble when you’re working on developing self-awareness.

The good news is that getting to know yourself is not all about learning your weaknesses. When we start to become self-aware, we also start to discover our strengths. As leaders, when we begin to discover our strengths, then we begin to make a difference.

The practice of getting to know one’s self is a challenging and ongoing action. My recommendation for developing self-awareness is to get feedback from others through peer reviews. Sometimes it helps to do anonymous feedback reviews, so people don’t hold back. If you’re married, your spouse is a great resource to help you develop self-awareness. Write down what you believe is your strengths and weaknesses, then run it by your spouse. Their response my surprise you.

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