The Art of the Self Scout

You have to know your tendencies to improve yourself, so learn the art of the self scout.


How often do you really stop and look in the mirror?

No, I don’t mean literally.  I mean figuratively.  How often do you look at your performance, your style, your language, your approach to life and assess it?

Such an assessment isn’t easy.  Most of us would rather watch the latest rerun of Modern Family than have a moment of self reflection.

But…You know what?  It’s the only way to get better.

In sports, the art of the self scout is practically sacrosanct. In most major sports, teams at higher levels of competition spend a lot of time scouting their own approaches to playing the game.  They treat themselves just as their competitors would. They break down their tendencies, their tells, their strengths, and their weaknesses.  They have to, because their competition will.

Might as well find the problems first.

At the most elite levels of American football–the sport I have the most intimate experience within–self scouting goes all the way to the individual level, and then even to the situational level.  So, players not only evaluate themselves on how they play; but also how they play while facing 3rd and long against Tampa 2 press coverage.

Professionals go deep into how they play the game.  They watch film of themselves, seek guidance from coaches (who in the elite ranks are as much counselors and performance monitors as they are true coaches), and they adjust.

Did you get that?  They adjust.  They fix their tendencies and gaps.  Either that, or they get exposed by competitors who find the gaps.

Deliberate self reflection–self scouting–is a useful mindset for professionals of all sorts.

Go ahead, fire yourself…

One of the best examples of self scouting leading to action comes from the earlier days of Intel Corporation.  Mired in a price war with non-U.S. memory chip makers, Intel leaders Andy Grove and Gordon Moore engaged in an interesting conversation.  As recounted by Andy Grove, it went like this:

I looked out the window at the Ferris wheel of the Great America amusement park revolving in the distance, then I turned back to Gordon and I asked, “If we got kicked out and the board brought in a new CEO, what do you think he would do?” Gordon answered without hesitation, “He would get us out of memories.” I stared at him, numb, then said, “Why shouldn’t you and I walk out the door, come back and do it ourselves?

They had the presence of mind and just enough ability to subvert their egos to step outside themselves and evaluate what they were doing…And change it.

How you do it

There are many ways to self scout.  You can ask for feedback from others on behaviors and performance.  You can look back at your body of work and critique it as if it were the other guy’s.  You can engage in the Andy Grove experiment and simply fire yourself.  Walk into your job one day as if you were new to it, and think about what you need to shake up first.

That last point might be the most powerful.  In my practice, when we talk about helping new executives get up to speed or digesting an acquisition, we use the tried and true (and maybe a bit trite) concept of the 100 day plan.  A 100 day plan is a way of galvanizing action against a vision of what needs to happen to quickly re-form and re-direct a role or company under new leadership.

The question I’ll ask you is this:  Why does it take turnover for a person to form a 100 day plan?  Why do you have to wait until the other guy has your role before you acknowledge the gaps in performance?

Why not self scout and close the gaps yourself?

Try it… Starting today, try forming your 100 day agenda as if you were new to your job.  I’m betting you’ll find something of value.



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