Nobody is perfect…that's easy for pretty much everyone to admit. So, why do some leaders act as if they have no faults? Some may be trying to protect their reputations - they might think that admitting mistakes or weaknesses will result in a loss of respect. Others may simply lack self-awareness. How can someone admit a fault if they don't even know about it? Working with someone like this can be very frustrating, especially if that person happens to be your supervisor. Having a strong sense of self-awareness is good for employees at all levels of the organizational chart, but it's even more crucial for leaders. The tips below can be useful for someone looking to increase their sense of self-awareness.
Engage in honest reflection.
It's not pleasant to think about your own deficiencies, so start out with an easier task - consider your strengths. What do you think you're really good at? What comes naturally to you? What do you enjoy doing? Knowing your strengths is just as important as knowing your weaknesses.
Next think about areas in which you might struggle. What are you not so good at? If you're not sure, think about tasks that seem to linger on your to-do list for longer than they should - why do you put them off? Is it because they are difficult for you to accomplish? Why do you think that is? Thinking about tasks or assignments that make you uncomfortable may help you uncover areas in which you can afford to improve.
Use a structured or formal process to learn more about yourself.
Take your own personal bias out of the picture by completing an objective assessment. Make sure it was developed based on solid research and that it measures areas that are important to your current role. Be sure that you will receive detailed feedback about your results. Complete the assessment honestly. If anything in your results surprises you, delve into that area in detail. Try to think of examples that support the assessment results. If you can't think of any, ask for your supervisor's opinion. This is a great way to uncover blind spots.
Gather data from your coworkers via a 360-degree survey. Invite your direct reports, peers, and your supervisor to give you feedback about what it's like to work with you. Make sure this process is not tied to a performance review, salary increase, etc. Clearly communicate to your coworkers that you're doing this to gain self-awareness so that you can continue to increase your effectiveness in your role. Be sure to sell the process to get as much input as possible - getting honest, detailed feedback will not only help you develop, it will make you a better boss, a better peer, and a better worker in general; it's in everyone's best interest to engage in this process.
Consider how your strengths and weaknesses impact others.
Once you have a good handle on your strengths and areas for improvement, consider how they impact your coworkers. Do you have team members who are strong in areas that you are weak? Leverage them and learn from their successes. If you have a strength that's currently being underutilized, talk with your supervisor about opportunities that will allow you to use that skill. Before you take on a new assignment, consider if it's well-suited for your particular set of strengths. If it's not, see if you can work with someone whose strengths compliment your weaknesses. Be mindful that your quality of work will impact your team and the organization as a whole, so plan accordingly to ensure your success.
Good leaders tend to have a thorough understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. Some are naturally very self-aware, while others have to more consciously engage in the activities listed above. Careers are typically not static, so having an ever-evolving sense of self-awareness is critical to ensuring leaders remain effective. Use the above tips to learn more about your strengths and weaknesses as a leader, and stay tuned for a future blog on how to develop your areas of opportunity after you've identified what those are.
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