Managers, are you having trouble understanding why an employee’s work habits are driving you crazy? Have you reached the point where you’ve actually yelled at that employee for no good reason? If so, it’s time for you to concentrate on self-awareness.
In her article for Harvard Business Review, Dr. Tasha Eurich discusses the importance of manager self-awareness in any organization. Self-aware managers are “more-effective leaders with more-satisfied employees and more-profitable companies.” If you’re serious about improving your performance and getting a grip on what’s bothering you about an employee, realize that self-awareness has two parts.
If you’re internally self-aware, you’ve reflected on some details. You've thought about and understand your values, your feelings, and your impact on others. For example, you realize that working for an organization that benefits the environment is important to you.
Eurich argues that external self-awareness is another matter entirely. A person who has high internal self-awareness isn’t always externally self-aware. It's “leaders who see themselves as their employees do” who are externally self-aware.
Eurich developed a template to categorize four types of leadership 'archetypes' and where they fit on the self-awareness scale. Managers can analyze these profiles and work on improving themselves. For example, people-pleasing managers have high external self-awareness but lower internal self-awareness. These leaders are sometimes too focused on what others think of them. Their actions will be all about making sure that the higher-ups see them as c‑suite potential. Eventually, these managers risk anxiety and stress, because they haven’t taken actions that align with their personal values or feelings.
Anxiety and stress can drive anyone, even managers, to lash out at employees. If you’ve been critical of an employee’s work habits, could it be because they represent the way you’d like to work? Have you been so focused on your career path and external self-awareness that you’ve neglected what you need personally, internal self-awareness, in order to feel positive about your future?
Don’t beat yourself up about this. Eurich’s research shows only 15% of people are completely self-aware. The best way to improve external self-awareness is to ask for feedback from others. Don’t lash out if they tell you something you don’t want to hear. Thank them and then take the time to think over what you hear. You’ll want to escape a common trap people fall into when trying to become more internally self-aware. Don’t ask ‘why’. Ask what. For example, what projects could I take on at work that would be more in line with my personal values? “What” questions help you stay objective, future-focused, and empowered to act on your new insights.
Start now on the path to self-awareness, for the good of yourself and your organization.