In my training and coaching work, I work with managers and leaders to increase their self-awareness. As I learned years ago, the journey to effective management and leadership begins with self-awareness. Managers and leaders never reach their full potential without self-awareness.
What is Self-Awareness?
As Psychology Today explains, self awareness is the following:
Self-awareness is the accurate appraisal and understanding of your abilities and preferences and their implications for your behaviour and their impact on others.
While self-awareness is a great gift (when we decide to accept it), self-awareness is also initially uncomfortable.Self-awareness is a gift when we decide to accept it. Click To Tweet
(It’s kind of hard to accept that the heads of other people that we have been turning around have not been looks of admiration or respect for how well we are dressed. Instead, they’ve been wondering why we have no idea that we are walking around in public with no clothes on!)
Why is Self Awareness Important
Managers who lack self-awareness ultimately harm their own leadership effectiveness. This occurs because they lack an understanding of their own behavior and how this impacts the critical working relationships that are important to their success — their employees, peers, boss, senior leadership and other critical stakeholders. Over time, the inability of these managers to see their own faults and make the necessary adjustments in their working style erodes their leadership credibility in the organization.
As I’ve worked with managers and leaders, I can see them have an aha moment as they realize that they have unknowingly been contributing to their poor interpersonal relationships with others. For some managers, the aha moment is not a big deal. They can just make some small adjustments to their leadership and communication styles to have better working relationships with others.Leaders who lack self awareness eventually fail at establishing effective relationships with the organizational stakeholders that are critical to their success. Click To Tweet
For other managers, however, the aha moment is a big deal! The problems they created will not be quickly fixed often because of organizational history that goes back awhile. These managers have the following troubling thoughts:
1. I’ve made some mistakes as a manager, and I’m a major contributor to the poor interpersonal relationships that I have with some people. Can I even repair the damage to these relationships?
2. What should I do first?
3. If I can repair the damage, how can I do it?
How to Fix a Damaged Relationship
Can I even repair the damage to these relationships? Surprisingly, most of the time you can! Employees, peers, and bosses are often forgiving when they see you are taking responsibility for your own shortcomings and committing yourself to improving your working relationships with them. This is especially true when your colleagues accept that your prior behavior came from a lack of knowledge about leadership, management, or communication. Most will welcome the new change in you and respect you for taking personal responsibility to improve.
What should I do first? The first step to addressing this real-world challenge that you’ve created is to leverage self-awareness correctly. Don’t beat yourself up! Instead pick yourself up! As the saying goes: Don’t cry over spilled milk! You’ve made the mistakes already. Accept responsibility and focus on what you can do to fix the situation.
If I can repair the damage, how can I do it? There’s no such thing as the perfect manager. That is why management is a journey and not a destination! We all have our shortcomings. It’s what we do about them that matters. Make the needed changes. (If you do not know how, take a seminar, get a coach, or take a behavioral assessment.)
It can also help to strategically let people know that you are purposely changing. For example, if you’ve learned that your communication style is too blunt, you can begin your remarks in a meeting with your wary peers with something like the following:
I’m working on being more diplomatic so let me explain my thoughts on our project this way . . .
If you’ve taken a management seminar or a behavioral assessment, you can casually drop that information in a conversation. Disclosing the reasons for a change in your behavior gives people a context to understand why you are acting differently.
Finally, realize that whenever you change your behavior and how you communicate with others, you should expect that some people will at first be suspicious of you. Just be patient and consistent in your new way of interacting and communicating with others. As you do this, you will build trust as they see that the changes in your leadership style are real.Employees can be forgiving if they believe that their manager is becoming more self aware and taking the steps to improve his or her leadership style. Click To Tweet
Image courtesy of Imagerymajestic/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net.