Category Archives: People Development
Self-Awareness has been a vital part of leadership for a handful of years. But being self-aware is not enough.
Great leaders need to focus on being “Others-Aware”.
Leaders do not operate in a vacuum, and cannot lead without the collective efforts and vision of others. But to focus on one’s self exclusively will lead to a shallowness of understanding and influence that will be ineffective and wear yourself out.
Here are some reasons and key benefits to being a leader who is “others-aware”:
- Understanding the concept that business is people. Google “business is people” and you’ll see the concept exposited from Richard Branson, Forbes magazine, Brian Tracy, Harvard Business Review, and others. This philosophy of success is based on meeting the needs of the organizations teams and individuals. When you realize the value of bringing others along for the journey, you start to become aware of their needs as both colleagues, business partners, and customers.
- Don’t focus too much on self. By focusing solely on self, you will obsess about everything you are working on and exclude those around you. This isolationist mindset will cause you to detach from the big picture of what is going on around you. By focusing on others, you not only become more aware of their needs, but also realize more of what you need to work on yourself in the process.
- You are only one piece of the team. If a conductor of an orchestra stepped to the platform to perform without the ensemble, they would be ineffective and a failure. They need the entire orchestra to complement their abilities and bring harmony together. Likewise, as a leader you need your teams and cannot achieve the mission without them. Bringing their talents to the forefront and making them the star of the show delivers results that cannot be met in any one person’s power.
- Connecting with people. Being aware of others means to connect others to others, sometimes even without yourself, to allow a team to flourish, innovate, and syngergize. A leader focused on self will get in the way of their people’s interactions. Instead, know what your team’s needs are from within itself and foster those working relationships from within to build connection and culture.
- Knowing the needs to the individual, and the whole team. If as a leader you fall short of meeting your people’s basic needs, they will pull away, causing toxicity, less production, and even some sabotage of the organization in various levels. Employees whose needs are met will grow, give more of themselves, and know that their workplace cares for their personal and career lives.
- Strengthening and building current and subsequent leaders. If you think other people will follow you solely on your example, you are missing the point. Future leaders are great followers, but all followers follow only those that invest in them. If you want to develop better employees and future leaders, know what they need, commit and invest in building their skills to attain those abilities.
- Creating a deeper engagement. Sometimes leaders will focus on employee engagement, but from such an internal aspect they fail to grasp the concept and bring full committed engagement about. Engaged employees are only engaged so long as they feel they are being taken care of; they are totally committed when they know their best interests are being looked after. Drill down engagement to deeper roots by focusing on others and being aware of their needs at any given time.
If you are a leader who is being self-aware…keep it up and keep growing. Yet remind yourself to be “others-aware: and engage in their future. Bring as many people along the way to attaining the goals set before you. You’ll be amazed at how they will grow, and how you grow as well.
Make the commitment to be “Others-Aware” and work on your interactions with the people in your sphere of influence!
A colleague of mine many years ago had an interesting approach to observing and grading her staff’s performance.
We used a standardized form to grade each person’s job performance on their respective stations. It was a tool for both training and development to improve operations and build the team members’ job skills and competnecy.
“Micky” ran a higher volume operation than I did at the time, the flagship unit of the company. She inherited a facility that had solid leadership previously and a grounded and well trained staff that executed well. It was a golden opportunity with the pieces already in place to take the unit to another level of performance. She was young and recently promoted to the position, and was determined to show her influence and position.
However, Micky failed to gain a loyal staff because of a fatal flaw in her leadership. One of the key indicators was how she graded performance.
Micky’s approach to the station grading, was to never give her staff a perfect score on their performance. Ever.
Her justification? “Nobody’s perfect; they always have something they can improve on.”
What Micky failed to realize is she was telling her people they were worthless and could never be good in her estimation.
It should come as no surprise that internal conflict started to occur. Turnover increased, and employee engagement started to suffer. Revenues started to drop. Upper management spent more time in the facility. What was handed over to Micky as a smooth sailing ship was run aground by the following leadership failures:
- Not recognizing your employees for what they do. Micky failed to acknowledge the already well-trained staff of what they did well. Her failure to highlight people’s competency started to create resentment and distrust in her people. Good leaders will always praise and promote their people’s abilities and skills.
- Lack of faith in your people. Another by-product of her critical attitude towards her staff was effectively saying that she did not trust them in their jobs. When a person is constantly critical staff will play down to the expectation of them. Conversely when you show your people trust they will play up and fulfill that trust even further.
- High standards became unattainable. High standards are great, but unless people are supported and trained to attain them, or see them being attained, they will get discouraged and stop trying. Micky killed her team’s development by not allowing her people to attain the standard – one that was commonly attained in every other company facility.
- No commitment to true training and development. A leader’s true task is to build their people up to reach performance metrics and skill levels. Micky failed to see this as being relevant to her role, and instead she adopted a mindset that her job was to point out flaws. Her ability to train, even after pointing out any deficiencies, was poor. She never set her folks up for success.
- Non-verbals communicated disdain for people. Micky was also notorious for showing her frustration that people couldn’t do their jobs. Rolling the eyes, sighing audibly, her sour demeanor, and huffing around after a mistake was made – these all underscored her contempt for her people. She may have tried to talk a good game, but her people knew exactly where they stood by her body language.
- What you say is what you get. Micky’s self-proclaimed thinking was “I’m the manager, so no one should get better scores than me.” Micky set a goal, and achieved it. It was unfortunately a misguided goal.
- Pride. Micky’s pride was ultimately her biggest flaw, and downfall. Her people became a bother to her, and got in the way of her job. Every mistake that occurred as the store spiraled downward, she took personally as her people sabotaging her.
Eventually, the company had enough of her personality and dismissed Micky. Her replacement spent the better part of two years cleaning up the mess, but eventually got a solid and well trained staff and turned the operation around by devoting her time to building her people up.
Micky failed to acknowledge that the core fundamental tenet of leadership is to inspire and develop your people. When grounded firmly in a culture of value, people tend to perform at their highest levels. When absent, engagement and performance decrease.
The absolute worst thing a leader can do is to see themselves in a role to lord over their people. Be a servant leader, set your folks up to win, and grow your business by growing your people. It’s the best way for a leader to grow as well.
Look at the list of professional roles below and see if you can find a leadership trait that each has in common with the rest:
- Circus Ringmaster
- Symphony Conductor
- School Teacher
- Healthcare Professional (Nurse, Doctor, Specialist, Weight Loss Coach)
- Law Officer
What these roles have in common is their sole purpose is to bring out the best in those they interface with, without glory for themselves. This commonality is the core of their leadership, and anyone else’s as well.
Each of these roles function is to make those around them better, while working hard to perfect their calling. They may be the focal point at first glance, but careful discernment shows the prefer others to be focused on instead.
Let’s look quickly at how each one does this and what we can learn from their approach.
Circus Ringmaster. You may think this person is the center stage attraction. Every act they have the spotlight, and their showmanship and persona gain the attention of everyone in the audience. But their core job is to build up excitement and anticipation for the main acts and to slip behind the curtain away from the spotlight to allow the performers to showcase their talents. Great leaders promote their people and never stand in the way of their ability to “Wow” their customers.
Symphony Conductor. It takes years of study to attain to this level of musical mastery, yet the conductor is only 1 of 50, 100 or more people working together. They may be a headliner to a degree (such as Arthur Fiedler) but usually perform with their back towards their audience, having the musicians face the crowd. Their job is to get the best performance of each musician, each section, and create a culture of teamwork and professionalism to give a peak performance, over and over, each night.
School Teacher. To have the power to effect young and impressionable minds of the future should not be a task taken lightly. Teachers are charged with creating foundations for academics, model citizens, and fostering behaviors to mold the next generation of (all-too-soon-to-be) adults. To balance teaching core principles, truth, critical thinking, and mutual respect as well as keeping their students engaged and motivated daily are similar to what many leaders face every day. That all with the focus of getting children to learn and believe in their talents as they are just starting to discover them.
Healthcare Professional. The roles of these women and men may work more on the physical needs, but they work on the mental and emotional needs of those that depend on them. Their goal is a simple one – to make people better, healthier – by their skills and also through education, compassion, and sacrificing themselves. Many of these women and men work long hours to save a life, often putting themselves at risk. A great leader serves others in spite of the inherent danger they may face themselves, without recognition many times. (When a patient heals, it’s almost always said they made a great recovery and rarely does the credit go the to nurse or doctor).
Pastor. A pastor’s true calling is not to build a big mega-church, write best sellers, make people feel better, or have a large video audience. Theirs is a simple yet difficult calling – to faithfully teach the Scriptures to their congregation and help them towards spiritual maturity. Handled properly they can help positively impact many lives; but an incorrect misuse of the text or their office can leave lives, families, and whole communities in shambles. Pastors devote themselves to careful study, long hours, of prayer and ministry, and forego the comforts of their home lifestyle to meet the needs of others in their homes, the hospital, or wherever the need occurs. They grieve when people falter, and are patient and long-suffering to see folks grow slowly over years and decades. They are the true servant leaders who serve others to help them grow spiritually.
Law Officer. While this role may seem out of sorts juxtaposed on this list, their position is a unique one, especially those with integrity. They swear an oath to protect and to serve others, through both enforcing the law and keeping the order and safety of the citizens in their city or town. They serve through all elements (no bad weather days) and oftentimes volunteer to put their bodies and lives at risk to ensure the welfare of others. They personify servant leadership by placing their own well being to the limits in order to ensure citizens have freedom and peace form those who oppose it.
Virtually all of these servant leader roles are thankless jobs; others get the attention and recognition when things go right, and they take all of the blame when things go wrong. Yet true servant leadership is not worried about where the credit goes, they simply want others to do better as a result of their talents and skills and position.
Consider how your own role can model a better servant leader influence. Take some guidance from these noble positions and incorporate their passion into serving others.