I Got A 360° Review. Here Are My Results.

Earlier this year, my partners Ben and Brad pulled me aside and explained they were hiring a coach to assess their leadership effectiveness and help them identify areas for personal and professional growth. The coach used a tool called The Leadership Circle Profile (LCP), a 360° assessment that measures and provides leaders feedback through the lens of what’s called the Universal Model of Leadership. More than 200,00 leaders throughout the globe have taken The LCP.

After learning more about The LCP and talking with Ben and Brad, I decided to jump into the fray and take the assessment. My experience was incredibly humbling, illuminating, empowering and impactful. I’d even venture to say that it was the most impactful professional development exercise I’ve completed in the past decade. In fact, I got so much out of my 360° that I recently became certified in The LCP with the goal of helping founders in the Primary portfolio and the NYC tech community become stronger and more effective leaders.

There are many leadership and personality assessments that are used throughout Corporate America and the startup ecosystem - MBTI, Enneagram, Emergenetics, Strengths Finder, Clifton Strengths and so on. There are also a number of 360° profiles to help leaders identify their strengths and opportunities for development. Most focus on management style and personality, competencies, OR underlying tendencies. The LCP combines all three of these areas into one comprehensive, accessible tool.

The LCP is the only tool to my knowledge that measures the two primary leadership domains – creative competencies and reactive tendencies – and then presents this information in a digestible format so that opportunities for development can rise to the surface. Here is a high-level snapshot of The LCP:

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As you can see, the profile has northern and southern hemispheres. The northern focuses on creative competencies and the southern focuses on reactive tendencies. If your turn your attention to the outer circle, there are eighteen creative competencies and eleven reactive tendencies for a total of twenty nine leadership dimensions. These rollup to the nine summary dimensions found in the inner circle. It’s important to note that you shouldn’t think of creative as good and reactive bad. There are some nuances.

Creative competencies are linked to how a leader achieves results, brings out the best in others, leads with vision, enhances their own development, acts with integrity, and improves organizational systems. High scores in this hemisphere correlate to higher levels of leadership effectiveness and subsequently high levels of business performance. These creative competencies can be developed and enhanced over time through training, experience and mentorship.

Reactive tendencies emphasize gaining the approval of others, protecting oneself, and getting results through high control tactics. High scores in the reactive dimensions correlate to lower levels of leadership effectiveness. There are certainly gifts and costs associated with these tendencies. Again, one shouldn’t think of these as “bad” or negative. These tendencies are often developed earlier in life and we’ve used them to survive and even thrive in the world!

Here’s some good news: none of us are fixed and there’s quantitative proof that a leader can morph from reactive to creative. That’s what leadership development is all about.

You’re probably wondering by now, what was Schlaf’s experience with The LCP and what did he learn?

The end-to-end process took roughly forty five days and I personally invested about six to eight hours. This included selecting roughly twenty reviewers (my partners, peers, former colleagues and founders I’ve served), taking the assessment, reviewing the report and reading the reviewer’s comments, spending several sessions with a coach and then working on my development plan. Looking back, the investment in time and money was a no brainer.

The finished report was quite extensive. The package included my leadership circle, written qualitative feedback from the reviewers and the specific scores and how those compared to a range of benchmarks. Shortly after receiving my LCP results in the mail, I spent ninety minutes with my coach reviewing the results. Thank goodness. This gave me a chance to ask questions about The LCP, discuss the results and create a development plan. Candidly, it was a tough pill to swallow but very valuable. I’m still processing all of my learnings.

Below are my leadership circle results. Before you jump in, I’d like to share a few important points so you can make sense of the infographic. First, the green shading represents the scores from the reviewers while the dark black lines represent the scores I gave myself. Second, the scoring is relative so I’m effectively being compared to the 200,000 leaders in the database on a 0-100 percentile scale.

As you review the profile, I encourage you to look for high and low scores AND any large gaps between how I rated myself and how others rated me. That’s a good place to start.

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As you likely can see, I’m more reactive than creative. Within the reactive hemisphere, I was rated particularly high in the complying and the protecting categories. This includes specific tendencies such as pleasing, passive, distance, arrogance and ambition.

It’s clear that a number of these reactive tendencies have been holding me back as a leader. When I debriefed with my coach to walk through the results and determine my development plan, I decided to focus on pleasing and arrogance. I believed these two were causing the most damage and limiting my potential more than any others.

The tendency to people please has made it challenging to achieve results over the years. I’m often saying yes to things that don’t really map to my objectives and priorities. I want to help others and be liked so I have a hard time setting boundaries. This tendency has also made it difficult to live in accordance with my core values because I’m not always following what’s truly important to me.

Arrogance has limited my effectiveness because I can tune out and talk over people at times. Part of this has to do with impatience but also stems from my ADD which I’ve had my entire life. I also get excited and blurt things out so that behavior is misconstrued as impolite and inconsiderate. Given my ADD, I’ve struggled with concentrating in very long meetings which can make me seem distant and unfocused. Interestingly, these tendencies tend to surface in group settings and when I’m wearing my VC hat rather than my coaching hat.

When I first reviewed the “areas of development” written comments from my reviewers, I was embarrassed and disappointed in myself. I honestly felt like a failure and an imposter. I also had some resentment towards my colleagues who completed the assessment. I believe these are all natural and reasonable initial reactions. But after the debrief with my coach, I was able to take a deep breath, look at the results with some distance and view this as a real learning opportunity.

When looking at the creative hemisphere, I scored high in caring connection, balance and community concern. These were not much a surprise to me because I love people and relationships, believe strongly in the power of community and value balance in life. These are definitely core to who I am.

My coach encouraged me to spend time reviewing the section with the positive written comments. She said that I won’t get much value from the experience if I just focus on the reactive. Many of the comments were centered around my positive energy, ability to build deep and authentic relationships with founders, love and desire for community, knack to spot and invest in talent, and positive reputation in NYC tech. Reviewing these comments several times helped me see my superpowers from the perspective of my colleagues.

So what actions am I taking to ensure that my strongest reactive tendencies are minimized and I strengthen several creative competencies?

Right now, I’m incredibly focused on actions that map to my values (integrity), my objectives (achieves results) and the success and health of the organization (selfless leader). More specifically, I’m saying no more often and I’m protecting my calendar. Setting boundaries has become essential. I’m also blocking ninety minutes every morning to focus on high priority projects. Finally, I’m trying to ask myself the question, “what actions can I take that put the organization’s needs before my own.”

I had such a profound experience that I recently became certified in The LCP. As you can probably tell, I’m a huge believer in the power of the tool and process. I’m now able to deliver a similar experience to leaders throughout the Primary portfolio and the NYC tech ecosystem. I decided to add The LCP to my coaching tool belt because I fundamentally believe stronger leaders build stronger organizations. This is directly tied to one of my personal missions: to help leaders bring their visions to life.

I’m already seeing and feeling a huge difference in how I’m showing up at work and at home. The LCP reminded me that I’m human and far from perfect, but it also showed me that I have some amazing strengths and untapped potential. I’m proud of who I’ve become but I also recognize there’s tremendous room for growth. This last thought excites me especially as I enter into my forties.

I’ll end with this: all of us are a work in progress. If we don’t acknowledge our blindspots, limits and opportunities, then we’ll never reach our full potential, see our visions come to life and have the impact we dream of. Doing the work to develop ourselves isn’t easy but the rewards are boundless.

If you’d like to learn more about The LCP, feel free to send me a message. I’d be honored to talk with you about my experience and how it could help you.

John Wooden on Success

John Wooden is arguably the greatest men’s basketball coach of all time. He led UCLA to ten NCAA national championships in a 12-year span. Within this period, his teams won a NCAA men's basketball record 88 consecutive games.

Over the weekend, I was browsing YouTube and discovered his TED Talk from 2001. I watched the video twice because Coach Wooden’s views on success, leadership and winning are refreshing and inspiring, especially in an age where winning at all costs seems to be all that matters.

In this talk, he shares his own definition of success: “Peace of mind attained only through self satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you’re capable.” I encourage you to read that one more time. Let his words sink in.

Wooden’s definition of success isn’t about winning, losing, getting to the top of the mountain or having the most money. It’s all about finding inner peace and satisfaction knowing that you did the best you possibly could. I love that.

When he was growing up in Indiana on a farm with no electricity, his father use to say to him don’t whine, don’t complain, don’t make excuses…just get out there and do the best of your ability. There was no mention of winning. Coincidentally, my parents instilled a similar philosophy in my siblings and me when we were in high school.

I believe leaders from all types of organizations can learn from Coach Wooden’s perspective on success. At the end of the day, winning isn’t only what truly matters. Just as important is knowing that everyone on the team is working hard together, growing individually and putting in right effort to achieve a common goal.

Think Mystery, Not Mastery

Over the weekend, I attended a meditation retreat at Garrison Institute led by Sharon Salzberg and Ethan Nichtern. I can’t recommend this place enough. It’s one of the hidden gems of the Hudson Valley and only one hour north of the city.

After Sharon’s and Ethan’s talk on the first night, I was browsing the library and discovered the timeless classic The Artist Way by Julia Cameron. I have wanted to read this book for years. Since I’m trying to write more frequently, I decided to pick it up and dive in.

A few dozen pages into the book, the following line grabbed my attention: “Write what intrigues you, explore what interests you; think mystery, not mastery.” I repeated to myself, ‘Think mystery, not mastery,’ and then quickly wrote that phrase on a scrap of paper I carried in my pocket all weekend.

There’s something romantic and intoxicating about beginning a new hobby, craft or profession. We dream of penning that New York Times bestseller, performing in front of sold out crowds at Carnegie Hall, coaching a legendary Fortune 500 CEO and/or building a category defining company that touches millions. We feel like the sky is the limit and we can accomplish anything.

But soon after we get started, our inner critic runs wild on us and the learning curve begins to feel like a cliff. Or even better, we make initial progress but eventually hit the dreaded plateau that seems to stretch as far as the eye can see. Eventually we get that sinking feeling inside and reality sets in: becoming really good at [enter whatever skill or craft you’d like] is going to require a tremendous amount of time, energy, experimentation, mentorship, luck and failure. Gulp.

That’s why mystery is our friend. Mystery is the unknown. Mystery takes us to our edge. It’s at these outer limits where we grow and evolve. This is also the space where we find the confidence and faith in ourselves and our process. If we allow our true interests and curiosity to lead the way, we expand our boundaries through exploration, inquiry and experimentation.

Dreaming about and even obsessing over mastery early in our journeys can be debilitating and limiting. I’ve been there too many times to count on both hands. I haven’t found it to be productive in all these years.

That’s why ‘think mystery, not mastery’ is a useful mantra. It’s not about the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s about getting really curious about the tunnel each step of the way.

Why I Invest

Last Friday night after a long week, I decided to go for a long run and listen to a Buddhist lecture on the true nature of existence and the self. About ten minutes into the run, I started to contemplate why I have chosen various paths in life such as becoming a venture investor. Since I have decided to make this my life’s work, I began to examine what really drove this long-term decision and whether I was being honest with myself. As soon as I returned home and showered, I opened up my computer and published the following tweet.

Ryan Hoover of Product Hunt was the first to reply and suggested that I expand on the tweet and provide commentary and context on each one. I hadn’t considered writing a post, but ultimately decided it would be enlightening and cathartic to dive into each reason and expose myself.

Below is an expanded view into all the reasons that I have chosen VC as a career. I’ve also tried to be honest about what drives me. While this list captures how I feel today, I’m sure it will evolve over time as I learn more about myself and my worldview changes.

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