Breaking Free with the Big 3

I would like you to stop for a moment and play the Break Free song from Queen; this can be your theme song as you explore the Big 3 and break free!

I have spent over a decade helping organizations to optimize their talent capabilities and in doing so, what has become blatantly obvious is how we can break free with the Big 3 and transform ourselves and our teams to higher levels of leadership.

So, what are the Big 3?

Self Awareness, Vulnerability and Learning Agility

 When we apply all 3 – we can truly break free!

Breaking Free with Self Awareness

Let’s be clear on what self awareness is.

When we are self aware we can confidently declare that we:

  • Know our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, limits, thoughts, beliefs, motivation, and emotions
  • Can understand other people in , how they perceive us, our attitude and our responses to them in the moment
  • Ask for feedback and seek input from others
  • Can totally handle criticism
  • Learn from our mistakes
  • Do not get defensive
  • Can openly talk about our inadequacies or faults

Imagine what life would be like if we demonstrated these behaviors.  How liberated we would feel!  How we could get out of our own way and break free!  The challenge is, there is something that holds us back. Some of the most successful leaders and employees I have seen are incredibly self aware and leverage this awareness to harness work that is the most satisfying and rewarding while continuing to learn from their short comings and opportunities.

For me to truly become self aware, my break free moment takes me back to my mid twenties. I was somewhat of an overachiever; my adult mentors would stroke my ego and constantly tell me I was a natural born leader.  I had and continue to have high drive for results, I was a classic description of a perfectionist, I got energy from winning and had a deep rooted fear of failure.  Whoa!  How do you coach that? I was incredibly defensive when feedback was provided to me.  I wasn’t mature enough at the time to recognize that feedback was a gift.  I had leaders who cared enough about me, who genuinely wanted me to succeed, who took the time to give me feedback.  They were faced with obstacles though; I only heard the negative, I felt like they were judging me, it triggered insecurities, and would literally set me back emotionally. And there was no way that I would ever call attention to my short comings; not that I thought I had any back then.

For me to break free and truly become self aware, I needed to let my guard down and let humility punch me in the face.  Personal assessments, 360-degree feedback and of course asking for feedback were incredibly helpful ways for me to better understand how I show up and behave and what I could do to improve.  I could leverage my, ‘drive for results’, strength to garner the learning and truly break free. I quickly came to realize with some honest and deep rooted reflection that I had a major issue with trust.  Asking myself, why am I reacting this way?  Why am I resisting the feedback?  Why, Why, Why?  Trust was my root cause and I will always have trust issues.  It is innate for many reasons that we don’t have time to get into right now.  The reality for me though was because I do not trust easily, I was not able to mentally and emotionally rationalize my thoughts with the idea that the intent behind the feedback was pure, real, natural and ultimately meant to help me grow.

Overcoming the trust barrier allows me to appreciate how self awareness, true to the core self awareness can change the trajectory.  I embrace the feedback and seek it out.  I can describe very specifically the good, the bad and the ugly about me.  And since we are not perfect, I am happy with the good, the bad and the ugly.  I can recognize the bad and the ugly; I have learned how they show up and what I need to do to overcome them or at the very least to manage them.

Awareness is half the battle.  Being self aware means we know where our strengths are, where we get energy from and we can apply ourselves in the most productive way possible.  What would life be like if we could all be self aware as individuals and as the collective team?  Break Free! This brings me to Vulnerability.

Breaking Free with Vulnerability

It is one thing to be self-aware, but what if we don’t declare it?  What if we put on a façade?  We cannot be open, honest, real, authentic and true to ourselves or each other?  What if we were trying to shelter the world from our flaws?  Why would we ever want to do this?

The truth is, we all do this in some way shape or form.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could shout loud and proud our short comings and have the confidence in ourselves and in each other that no matter what, it will all be okay?  Wouldn’t it be great if we never felt like we were going to be judged?

I encourage you to watch Brené Brown’s, The Power of Vulnerability.  She hits this topic spot on and better than I ever could.

We do not live in a world of perfection.  We do not need to be perfect.  We all have shortcomings and flaws – Break them free!  To truly be vulnerable, you are giving yourself, your whole self to others.  You can only do this when you are self aware!  You can be honest about your good, your bad and your ugly and you can share it, so others can see your whole you.  What is the risk?  Only goodness can come from this.

Now, close your eyes and imagine a day when we are all openly sharing our true selves.  Imagine this vulnerability around your boardroom table or your kitchen table?  Imagine what life would be like?  Break Free and Be Vulnerable! This brings me to Learning Agility, without this,  it is all for nothing!

Breaking Free with Learning Agility

The most productive, effective leaders and teams I have ever met have learning agility nailed and is a wonderful indicator of their potential.  Learning agility by definition is, the ability and willingness to learn from experiences and then apply that learning to be successful in new situations.

Now for a moment, go back to your self awareness learning and your new found love to be vulnerable.  By applying what you know about yourself and openly sharing with others, you can seek feedback, advice, strategies and skills to leverage your best strengths and overcome your short comings.  Because you are aware, you can recognize when things might rear its ugly head – you can be vulnerable and call attention to it and then work hard at preventing it from happening again.  The more you apply the learning the best version of you can come.  This is how learning agility is demonstrated.

Imagine teams making the same mistakes over and over again and never learning from those mistakes.    That is the definition of insanity as we all know it.  Why would we want this for ourselves or for each other?

Understanding our true self and embracing our true self allows us to love ourselves.  Openly sharing our true self and asking for help where we need to grow, and then doing something about it – this is true learning.

“Strive to be better today, then yesterday, every day.”

“Inspire yourself and others to apply the Big 3.”

When you can embrace all three you will have a true break free feeling that can transform you and your teams to higher levels of leadership!

Self awareness is a beautiful thing, being vulnerable is a beautiful thing and learning is a beautiful thing.  Who doesn’t want to be beautiful!

So, click on the link, turn up your volume and Break Free with the Big 3!



Heather Wyllie

Vice President, Human Resources with 15 years of business transformation, leading high performance teams and inclusive cultures.


Submit a comment

Your email address will not be published.