Authenticity and Relating: Reflections On An LCP Retake
By Ricardo Troiano
“Surely there’s something wrong with this feedback data,” I remember thinking that to myself when I opened the document with the results of my first Leadership Circle Profile survey. The model shows a quick view of your “Creative” side, which measures key leadership behaviors and internal assumptions that lead to high fulfillment, high achievement leadership. It also shows the “Reactive” side which reflects inner beliefs and assumptions that limit effectiveness, authentic expression, and empowering leadership. The profile itself seemed fine — more Creative than Reactive– and lots of insightful feedback from the comments. Still, the low Courageous Authenticity score didn’t seem to fit with my own view of how I thought I show up around others. Courageous Authenticity is about the willingness to take tough stands, bringing up the “undiscussables,” and openly deal with difficult relationship problems, which I always felt I did. After all, given that I tend to extravert most of my thinking (likely too often if you ask those around me), I believed that my intent was to always be both honest and transparent.
I’ve spent almost two decades as a management consultant in the leadership and change management space, and the last four in the industry focusing on the same. In some hidden part of my brain, I undoubtedly assumed that doing some deep reflection work while coaching teams and individuals would somehow make me more self-aware or self-actualized. I do recognize the biases we all hold about ourselves, which is why some surveys show that as many of 80% of respondents will self-assess as above-average drivers (but again, this is harder to come to grips when you’re the one being assessed). Needless to say, it was a phenomenal opportunity to really listen and learn, albeit a somewhat uncomfortable one.
After a lot of reflection time, and deepening my practice through working with other leaders and teams on their own profiles, I came to understand what was going on here. As it turns out (and I reluctantly believed at the time), there was nothing wrong with the data. The insight was staring at me right in the face, specifically in the Reactive Tendencies around Compliance.
Earlier in my life, I had moved homes across continents and my attempts to fit into my new surroundings, crystalized beliefs and cemented behaviors around trying to belong and please others. While I still spoke openly and shared my thoughts, I would stop short of anything that would potentially disrupt the peace or impact others negatively.
The key to Reactive Tendencies is that we can’t see them as “bad” since they have often played a helpful role in making us who we are. They only start limiting us if they are over-used. In my case with Complying, it made me highly sensitive and attuned to what others need and how they are impacted by what we say and do.
Certainly, this was a strength that helped me throughout my consulting career, and even now as I believe that focusing on our customers and clients is the key to creating value. If this sensitivity shifted my behavior away from sharing the “undiscussables” that would help others, it would no longer serve me and even limit my effectiveness in helping others. Especially in an organizational context, where leading people requires the honesty to call out what’s working or not working in equal measures, even about one’s own actions and decisions.
I remember that being crystal clear on the “one big thing” I should focus on, and the behaviors that would support that shift was helpful at the time. I have a second computer monitor above my desk where one could plug in their laptop for a larger viewing screen, but I never use it. Having worked as a consultant for a couple of decades had ingrained the habit of only working on a laptop. So, I used the big screen as a pin-board, sticking reminders and post-it notes around. Right in the middle, I had printed out and taped my LCP graph results. This would help remind me what habitual behaviors I had honed over time and, more importantly, how I can recognize the shift what I would focus on in the future. This would remind me to reflect when I came back from a meeting where I had spoken up, if I had done so from the place of wanting to please others or being true to my perspective, even when others may have been irritated or displeased.
What ultimately allowed me to let go of the need to please was my relative strength in the Creative Dimensions around Relating. This dimension is all about how you relate to others in a way that brings out the best in people, groups, and organizations. I believed that I could build meaningful connections where no level of open, honest feedback would prove damaging to the relationship. On the contrary, I found this only deepened relationships, as others were grateful to get feedback that I would have otherwise held back. I recognized that this will be a lifelong challenge. Still, I felt comfortable with my understanding of how this came about and how I can start to replace and update beliefs and behaviors that no longer serve me. I realized I could let go of my Compliance and still radically improve my Courageous Authenticity, without sacrificing relationships along the way.
After almost two years since my first LCP, I decided to complete a retake. If I’m honest with myself, I would admit that I was expecting a big shift, primarily in this dimension that I had focused on and spent energy thinking about. Surely everyone would see me less Compliant, and specifically, highly Courageously Authentic? After all, I thought I’d found the balance of sharing the good, bad, and ugly while maintaining my values and integrity in a way to be helpful rather than controlling. With a lot of close colleagues giving me feedback in the initial LCP, I was confident this time would be equally insightful, but would reflect the positive shift due to the behavioral changes I believed I had made.
I got my feedback a day before heading off on a long weekend holiday break. I decided to not take this work with me, but peeking at the graph couldn’t hurt, right? I looked at it and was, once again, a bit confused. Some changes overall, but not the significant shift I had expected in the dimensions where I felt I had focused so determinedly on. I left it behind and took off with the family — the deeper insights would have to wait. I’d have to say I was disappointed, but still not clear on what it all meant.
Returning refreshed from holiday, I got back to my results and started digging in. What was clear was that multiple rater groups saw me very differently. I drew up some blank profiles graphs and started filing them in for the separate groups, and the picture instantly cleared up partially. I would still need to look for answers as to why. The feedback from my direct reports, as well as my boss, reflected the shift in visible behaviors that I was working on and had been expecting. They seemed to experience me more Authentic and less Compliant than the prior year, and it seemed the focus on this had paid off. As it turns out, I’d come to find that I had neglected others in my journey. When I drew the circle from my peer’s feedback, those that sat with me on the same leadership team, the picture looked nothing like I had expected. I was stunned.
My peers saw things very differently, almost inversely, to others. With reflection, I would come to see this as a humbling moment, but at the time, it seemed hurtful. I once again questioned the data. Surely, they got it wrong! My first thought was to show them how others had experienced me through their feedback and demand to know why they saw it differently. I suppose going in with that energy is a perfect example of how I would have shown up, more Arrogant and Distant, and less Relating and Self-Aware. Specifically, in those areas of Compliance and Courageous Authenticity, it was similar to how it came through in the first LCP. I couldn’t blame it on them being anchored to some past version of myself as they were all new peers, none who had participated in my initial feedback two years prior. It was simply how they experienced me now, so I had to take a deep breath and accept it at face value.
I did end up going to my peers to discuss but intended to do it with a much different energy. Firstly, I spoke to them individually and didn’t share the feedback from the others. I just went in curious to hear from their experience. I posed the question to myself that I usually use when I get feedback and always share with clients and teams that I coach, which is, “How is this true about me?” The key here is not to question if it is true, but why it’s true. After all, somebody else has this perception, so there must be a reason this comes across, and less refutable when it aligns with what others see and experience. Through their eyes, I was able to see how they would have seen me this way. I had put my focus on my team and those around them, but for the most part ignored the importance of the connection with my peers, or my interaction in the leadership meetings where we spent most of our time together. When I connected, it was focused on what I needed from them rather than being curious as to what they were looking for or needed from me. I was also less likely to share the critical feedback that could have been helpful for them, myself, and the team.
I’ve done a lot of coaching work with clients on LCP retakes. Still, there is a fundamentally deeper understanding of the work when it unpacks your own beliefs and behaviors. As I eluded to earlier, it was humbling to go in expecting a big change, but recognizing that there is always self-work to be done. Feedback truly is a gift, but you need to be open and able to receive it, and I found that I struggled to do this initially. I’m now focusing more deeply on areas that don’t serve me to how I show up for everyone, and not just those that I feel I need to focus on. If this doesn’t clearly shed light on what Courageous Authenticity would mean to me, then I suppose nothing will.
While I continue to do self-work, I am curious as to what some future retake could reveal. Perhaps I should get that scheduled and take a deep breath.
Ricardo Troiano is the Head of Change and Organisational Effectiveness at Syngenta, a company he joined 4 years ago after almost 20 years in management consulting and 5 years in manufacturing as an engineer. Prior to his current role, he was an Associate Partner at IBM’s Talent & Change practice and a Senior Managing Consultant at PwC. He has led work across 4 continents in dozens of clients internationally. His primary areas of expertise include driving large scale Transformation and Change across multiple industries, organizational development and executive leadership development.