I’ve been taking an experimental new class in MIT’s Engineering Systems Division called Leading Creative Teams, and so far I’m finding the most useful tool we’ve been given for self-reflection is an exercise called the Reflected Best Self. It involves a lot of squirming and asking friends, family, and colleagues to reflect on when they saw you at your best, and then reading through the list of anecdotes to pull out common threads. I’ve just started sorting through mine, and I have to say that while some observations were to be expected (my attention to detail and quest for perfection), I’m thoroughly baffled by others (apparently I’m far more persistent and disciplined team-player than I suspected!).
The exercise comes from research conducted by Laura Morgan Roberts and others; here’s a link to the journal article that outlines the authors’ theory of how people compose their RBS portrait, and a HBR article that offers practical advice on putting together your own. The journal article is useful for people who — like me — want to know where ideas come from, which the HBR article necessarily lacks.