December 9, 2023

For Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg, self-reflection is serious business.

The 58-year-old kicks off every day with a self-assessment, and he’s a better boss because of it, he said on Tuesday at the Fast Company Innovation Festival 2023. Vestberg started the routine in 2009 after becoming CEO of Swedish telecommunications company Ericsson, and he’s done it “every day” since, he said.

Each morning, Vestberg ranks his mood “from 1 to 10,” he said, helping him get into the “right mood and right energy” to do his job. The numbers gauge whether he’s able to show up to the office as his best self:

  • 1-2: He should “stay in his office” and work by himself, because he isn’t in a good headspace to collaborate with others, he said.
  • 3-7: He’s “energized” and able to work at a high level, he said, adding that this range is “usually when I’m the best.”
  • 8-10: Vestberg has “so much energy that people get tired of me,” he joked. He tries to dial back to the 3-7 range and prioritize his work, he said.

The routine “brings out the strength in my leadership,” said Vestberg.

He’s not alone. Jerry Colonna, an executive coach sometimes known as the “CEO whisperer,” has a similar routine called “radical self-inquiry” that he says helps him make better decisions.

“Spend a few minutes each day, but not the entire day, asking questions like how am I really feeling? What do I want to bring [to a situation]?” Colonna told CNBC Make It in March. “Radical self-inquiry is a means to unabashedly, without shame and without seeking guilt, understand who you are [and] why you do the things you do — so that you then do things out of choice, not for unconscious reasons.”

Strategies like these might feel unnatural at first, Colonna said: “We’re socialized not to look inward” because it can come across as “narcissistic or self-indulgent.” But as long as you don’t “get stuck” harping on certain character traits, you can use the practice to develop some important self-awareness.

That’s a crucial skill for professionals at every level: Self-awareness can help you show up with more confidence and creativity, according to a 2018 Harvard Business Review report. It can help you make better decisions, strengthen your relationships and protect you from work stress or burnout.

“You can have all the technical skills and charisma in the world,” Juliette Han, a Harvard-trained neuroscientist, told Make It in June. “But if you’re completely oblivious of yourself, how you come across and interact in the world, it’s a lot harder to build strong relationships, interact with your boss and co-workers and deepen the friendships you need to truly succeed.”

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