Don’t Let Your Shadow Manage You

Your shadow is that side of you that you don’t want to know about.  You see it in others easily enough though.  “You spot it, you got it”, as the saying goes. 

 The three primary motivating needs and their corresponding needs, or shadows are:

  Motivating Need / Corresponding Shadow

  • Achievement / Fear of Failure

  • Affirmation / Fear of Rejection

  • Power / Fear of Betrayal

Identify your Motivating Need, and by default, you’ve identified your shadow.  Everyone should care about identifying their shadow for several reasons. 

 First and foremost:  your own growth and development.  When you have identified, accepted, and confronted your shadow you are able to recognize when it emerges in your behavior.  That flash of recognition is often enough to allow you to make your reaction to a trigger more controlled, constructive, and purposeful.  As an example, after going through the Actualized Leadership Profile certification program I discovered affirmation is my primary motive need which comes with the corresponding shadow of the fear of rejection.  Early on in a new leadership role I found myself lamenting how I never got invited to critical meetings. Once I went through the training and learned about my shadow I was able to recognize when these feelings of not belonging were interfering with my ability to connect with my peers.  Once I shifted my perspective to building deeper relationships with my colleagues, a dynamic shifted and those concerns dissolved.

Second, others likely know what your trigger is and how well you are managing it.  A good way to explore this recognition: ask a few trusted colleagues what negative behavior is most evident in you when something at work triggers you or sets you off.  Chances are you will see a pattern that emerges that points to either a fear of failure, rejection, or betrayal.  It may take some reflection to recognize these connections as your shadow likes to stay hidden away deep.

Finally, once you are able to understand the motive needs you can be a better leader by recognizing in others when their shadow may be hindering the results they are trying to achieve.  If a direct report is exhibiting signs of stress when deadlines are looming, perhaps or her fear of failure is getting triggered.  Is another direct report constantly complaining about teammates not including him in meetings or on projects?  It could be a sign that a fear of rejection is behind those complaints.

Reflection Question:  The next time you find yourself getting irritated at your co-worker, pause a minute and reflect where that irritation is coming from.  Is it possible you have just identified a shadow behavior of your own?

 If you want to know more about how to identify and manage your shadow for you or your teams, the Actualized Leadership Profile programs can help.  Contact HRt Consulting to learn more.

Mindi Searle