Self-Aware- A tale of missed clues.

Will these people just shut up so I can hear the instructor, I thought? The class was unbelievably unruly. Thank goodness I wasn’t the instructor.

My new branch manager had arranged for her management team to take a course, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People based on the book by Covey. It was a very popular course and I was excited to be included. The unruly behavior was quite a surprise. Everyone seemed to be making fun of the concepts and poking holes in all the exercises. They were funny and I laughed too but I felt uncomfortable.

The whole experience upset me. I felt totally out of place and questioned myself.  The management team was very successful, and I was new to the team.  Their way of behaving seemed to be working for them. I was torn.  It was my chance to show my management skills and yet my style seemed to be totally at odds with the management team and the branch manager. 

First Time Manager

I’d always wanted to be a manager and this was my first opportunity.  I was eager to do the job well so instead of being true to my own values, I followed the others who appeared to know the way.  About a year and half into the job after being humiliated at a meeting once again when I suggested that we had better get started learning about the world wide web, I had had enough.  I knew I needed to find another job.  I was not happy at work anymore.

That was a year and half too late.  I was very slow in becoming self-aware enough to know I was in the wrong place.  When I told my colleagues about how amazing the Internet was, they mocked me. Meanwhile I had been learning about it from a friend at MIT.  In the early days of the 1990s I became a Compuserv (early internet provider)subscriber thanks to my friend who was extremely excited about the web and shared his enthusiasm with me. He set my computer up and then emailed me frequently.

Learning new things has always been a strong value for me.  Ignoring it and trying to become a manager like my teammates was a big mistake for me.  While it worked for them (they were a high performing sales team), it did not work for me.  The branch manager saw that I was a misfit and released me to find another job.  Fortunately for me I found another job within AT&T, but I was no longer managing a team.

Failure can lead to becoming self aware

Failures are learning experiences.  Sometimes when you want something very much you just block out the warning signs.  I had had several.  Being self-aware means listening carefully to your brain, your heart and your gut.

From the beginning I knew I had major differences with the branch manager.  Our values were very different.  My gut told me that but I ignored it.

During the Covey class it was clear I was different than the other managers. They mocked the Covey material while I found it helpful.  It fit my behavioral style and values. I wanted to bring that way of being into my management style.  I had difficulty laughing with them and when I did it felt dishonest.  My brain told me I was struggling to join in. I couldn’t figure out why I was distressed.

I expected that the branch manager would teach me to manage my team.  That never happened.  Learning on my own didn’t work.  I was stuck.  A coach would have helped but if there were coaches then I didn’t know about them. I had this feeling in my heart that something was missing but I couldn’t figure out what.

Being self-aware means, you know your values, strengths, and talents.  You can discern when a job is right for you.  I had many warning signs, but I was so sure I would be a good manager that I ignored everything.  If something feels wrong for you, it probably is.  Understanding why it is wrong for you is the first step in self-awareness.

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