I was speaking, a few weeks ago, in front of an audience of 60 cancer care nurses about my research into teams under pressure.

After 40 minutes I was overwhelmed with anxiety, nerves and self-consciousness. I looked out at the audience and perceived them all looking at me critically, I lost my place in my slides, I worried my stories were not entertaining or engaging them. I became totally inward looking and self focused. I stood there thinking “they don’t like me” “They think I’m stupid” It was like being in the playground again.

But, what a fantastic learning moment.

I’ve been thinking about it since and came up with lots of reasons why I had my wobble. All rational justifications like ‘the group were tired’, ‘I had 2 cameras pointing at me’, ‘they didn’t get my message’, ‘they should listen more’. All rubbish of course.

In truth, I had lost my point, my purpose. It was only today I realised it. I was too worried about what they thought of me, whether I was ‘any good’.

I believe that this is useful and important work for us all to reflect and develop self-awareness. But too much of these good things can result in us becoming self-absorbed, too inward-facing. It can be driven by asking questions like;

  • How do I be a better manager?
  • How can I improve my weaknesses?
  • In what areas do I need to develop?
  • I can I have more impact and presence?

What about asking different questions?

  • How can I help you?
  • What can I do for my people/family/community?
  • In what ways can I coach, support develop others?
  • What do I have that you might find useful?
  • How can I be of service?

These questions are outward facing, not inward facing.

This sense of facing outwards and asking how I can be of service is at the core of all my work. It’s not about me, how I look or what they think of me. It’s about how I can serve them, help them, coach and encourage them.

This is the case whatever you do in the world. Work out what you are here for, set the intention to be as useful as possible and get to work. Look out – not in – for your inspiration, and you will achieve amazing things. Stop asking what you need for yourself and start helping others get what they need.

That’s what I’m here for.