Who Needs to be Self-Aware?

“Why does a manager need to be self-aware?” a potential client asked me.  It is a good question.  She’d done a lot of reading on being a manager and she thought she was up for the role.  So why would becoming more self-aware help her?

Being a manager may look like all you have to do is distribute work, check to see it is being done and give the direct report a goal or deadline.  There is more to it than that however.  You must work with people that may be very different from you.   That may pose some problems.

A manager I was working with had a lot of energy and was driven to get the work done quickly.  One of his direct reports, Ann, was slow and methodical.  Ann drove this manager crazy.  He frequently paced beside her desk waiting for her to complete something. She got nervous and that made her even slower.  It wasn’t working for either of them.

The manager was trying to change her so that she would be more like him.  She was uncomfortable rushing even though she knew she might lose her job if she didn’t.

The manager admitted to me that this employee’s work (when she finally completed it) was always good and that finding someone else that good might be difficult.  To keep a good employee this manager had to restrain his impatience and let her get the work done in her time.  He also had to acknowledge that he had been impatient with her and that he could be a very impatient person.

Knowing what triggers you is important.  This manager was triggered by someone who worked at a slower pace than he did.  It was infuriating to him and he took his anger out on his direct report.  She tried to accommodate him but found him too overbearing and impatient. 

When you are working in a team you need to understand the way others work and give them the space they need to do their best work.  Rather than harassing her, the manager could have talked with her to see how they might work better together.

What else does a manager have to be aware of?  Sometimes people have beliefs about a group of people that makes them not want to work with those people.  I worked in an office where no one had a noticeable tattoo. The manager had the belief that people with tattoos were not serious about work.  

Our attire at work was business like so when one man showed up at a summer picnic with his arms and legs totally covered in tattoos, we were all surprised including the manager.  The fellow was an excellent employee so there was not much the manager could say. Hopefully the manager reexamined his belief.

I once had a person call me who wanted to set up an appointment to discuss his business idea in a nearby coffee shop.  I asked him how I would know him since we had never met.  He told me he would probably be the only person with dreadlocks. 

My first thought was maybe I should cancel this meeting.  Then I realized I had had little exposure to someone with dreadlocks and I was probably a little biased against someone who had them.  Being self-aware means knowing when you are being judgmental and then adjusting for that.  The fellow had a really good business idea and I was glad I met with him.

Good managers are open to feedback.  Someone who is unwilling to learn about themselves may not be open to feedback. That person may instead become defensive when you are ready to discuss the feedback.    If you believe it is only your way or the highway, then it will be very difficult for you to manage a diverse group of people. 

Both employees and managers need to be self-aware.  Knowing where and how you do your best work, is important to your career success.  It allows you to understand your own behavior. You will know where your strengths are so you can use your strengths in your work.  You will be able to adjust your behavior knowing that you need to work differently with people who are different from you.

Coaching Opportunity

Ready to become more self-aware?  I have different tools I use with my clients to help them to understand who they are and why they do what they do.  Interested?  Give me a call at 617-240-5353 or email me at asparker@asparker.com

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