Like having night vision goggles

Note: This is Part 1 of the 3-part “micro-key” training series. To read Part 2, click here.

Fred doesn’t get it. 

He’s been able to attract top talent with impressive experience to his team. 

But now they’re missing deadlines, not taking ownership. 

In meetings, no one speaks up. When he makes a self-deprecating joke on Slack, there’s no response.

And today, his CMO has given notice that she’s leaving.

He’s starting to panic. What will the board say if he keeps falling short?


Too often, this is the mistake leaders make: “all or nothing” thinking — they’re either doing great or terrible. 

When things go well, they feel a sense of relief. 

When things go badly, they take it personally or make excuses why it’s not their fault. 

Not a recipe for learning faster.


World-class leaders take a very different approach. In fact, they don’t even think in terms of “great” or “terrible.” 

Instead, they start with very precise goals: understanding why one of their top performers is disengaged, for example. 

That gives them specific indicators that are relevant for what they’re trying to achieve. 

Then, in a conversation, they’re able to zoom out, observe themselves and evaluate how it’s going based on those specific indicators: Wait, am I being too emotional right now? What’s going on with her? Should I do something differently? 

(Researchers call it “metacognition” and it’s important because it helps you see more clearly and adapt to change. As if you’re wearing night-vision goggles.)

So the best leaders are able to see situations objectively, instead of through emotion or ego: since they don’t see their errors as proof of inadequacy they don’t feel the need to be defensive or to prove themselves. 

Because they have specific goals and strategies, they can understand what to change or improve. 

And since this objective analysis is more effective than the vague conclusion that “I’m just not a good leader,” they’re more likely to believe in themselves. 

Which motivates them to keep going, and creates a virtuous cycle of growth and learning.

And who doesn’t want that?