Leading is about achieving results with great impact, right? The reality is that this is true and untrue. Ultimately, the results you pull out of your people come down to one thing: your self-awareness. Your intention as a leader may be to deliver results within a specific timeframe set out by your company. Yet, unless you understand how you impact your people, you’re going to struggle with leading them to produce the results needed.
Research shows that self-awareness is fundamental for successful leaders. When you’re self-aware, you’re able to adapt your communication based on the working style of your team. You’re able to address misunderstandings and course-correct before a small issue becomes a major headache, which in turn can negatively impact your team’s performance.
Self-awareness begins within.
Chances are you have a track record of consistently delivering great outcomes. This is most likely what saw you move into a leadership role. But, as the old adage goes, “What got you here, won’t get you there.” Leading requires a different skillset for engaging people to produce quality. If your own level of awareness as to how to grow as a leader is missing, how can you expect others to follow your leadership to achieve their own outcomes?
This requires you to pay attention to your actions, behaviors, communication style and delivery.
Recognize that what has been successful for you is not always successful when it comes to how others work. This requires specific leadership skills, such as active listening, curiosity and empathy for others. Even if your team has similar skillsets and are working with the same data to produce results, they are still unique individuals with their own sets of experiences and working habits. Great leadership involves a deeper understanding of how your people are different in order to best leverage their individual talents.
Many leaders I work with tend to experience irritation, frustration, interpersonal friction or even impatience when rubbing up against individual differences with their team. This is not because their people are purposefully trying to be difficult. It’s simply that they have a different way of working. The higher your level of self-awareness, the quicker you’ll notice any tension, which allows you to shift from frustration into curiosity. These moments allow you to ask yourself, “What is it about the situation that created the feeling within me?” The typical feedback I hear from clients is that their team members simply think, and therefore, act differently. The end result of this is a miscommunication of expectations.
New skills for new neural pathways.
Bringing your “self” into focus is key to transforming your team into one that produces consistently. Given the fact that our focused attention creates new neural pathways, we can help prime our brain to pay attention to what we want to work on so that we can deepen these pathways. Eventually, these leadership skills become second nature.
If you want to be a better leader, set a goal to work on a new leadership skill at every opportunity to keep it top of mind. This practice makes it easier to remember and helps your brain notice the opportunities where you can apply the new skill, such as when your team member asks a question that requires an empathetic response.
One way to understand how you’re currently impacting your team is through 360-degree qualitative interviews undertaken by a qualified coach. This allows you to receive anonymous feedback around your strengths so you can further leverage them, clarify whether your intention is aligning with your impact and identify your growth opportunities. You also want to ensure your “blind spots” are revealed, so there are no surprises.
Tap into your curiosity.
When you are shut off from understanding how you can tap into your people’s potential, the trust that would otherwise produce amazing results is broken. By taking the time to look inward and become curious about who you are, how your actions, behaviors and communication impacts others and how you can pull the best out of your people, accomplishments are more easily won.
This doesn’t mean your team should not be held accountable. Instead, it means understanding where you may need to clarify expectations and help them build their own accountability systems so that you can all be more successful.
Bringing differences together.
When you notice friction, this is a sign for you to grow curious. It’s a cue that you and your team are approaching things from a different perspective.
Here are three questions you can ask yourself to further elevate your self-awareness.
- What’s my point of view? This helps you understand what’s important for you to achieve and why. Are you drawing conclusions without any facts?
- What’s the other person’s point of view? This builds empathy. Putting you in their shoes to understand their concerns and questions, as well as identifying the data points they require to do their job.
- How are they different? This allows you to see the gaps between the two so you can address and adapt your communication style to provide them what they need to produce.
A leader who takes responsibility for their impact, while making people feel heard as they’re producing results, is a leader who people will follow.
When was the last time you looked inward? When you successfully lead yourself, notice the difference in your team’s responses and performance — you will be pleasantly surprised.