One of the key precursors of success in business and in life depends on how well you know yourself, what you value and why you value it. What do I know about leaders? Be… Know… Do… Leaders are all about living their own values, being authentically true to themselves. They know their skill-set strengths and they know the people who can compensate for their weaknesses. And leaders take action from that knowledge. This blog is about self-examination, something a leader needs to do every so often to be self-aware. Time with yourself is not a luxury, by the way; it’s a necessity for balanced leadership. Some fires may go untended, but taking some retreat time to delve deep with introspection has a big payoff.
If you picture a baseball diamond and each base as a key to successful leadership, home plate would be all about knowing your core purpose and where your power comes from. You can’t run around the bases without a uniform on. So, let’s start with what you think is most important in your life and leadership: your core values. You need an internal guidance system to navigate the turbulent waters in this stormy world called business. A clear set of personal values and beliefs is the critical controller in that guidance system.
Find a list of values. The first step is to check the ones that resonate with who you are and what you believe. If you see a word, like teamwork, do you say YEAH! or do you shrug? Only check the ones that make you cheer inside and that others who know you well would say that are important to you based on how you behave. Then, prioritize the ten most important to you on that list, the ones that you couldn’t stay in a personal or business relationship without them being honored. Then, shrink it to five. Be able to defend those five and share them with your partner and your core team so that they know what you will never compromise and they can help you live your values. This helps build trust.
A second thing with which to get very comfortable is your personality style.
- Are you more of a relater who listens well, encourages, is conscientious, and likes harmony—but doesn’t like change or conflict? Their theme song is “I wanna hold your hand”.
- Are you more of a promoter who has fun at work, loves people interactions, and is passionate and inspirational—but doesn’t like details and is a little too dramatic? Their theme song is “Don’t worry; be happy.”
- Are you more of an analyzer who is very organized, a planner, goal-oriented, and good with numbers and data—but is a little OCD and too serious all the time? Their theme song is “I did it my way.”
- Are you more of a director who makes quick decisions, is super-confident and gets lots done—but who can be intensely unapproachable and a control freak? Their theme song is “Hit the road, Jack”.
A third thing is knowing your top strengths. You aren’t good at everything, but there are several things that have gotten you to where you are today in your success. You can take the StrengthsFInder assessment on-line to give you which five of thirty-four strengths are your top ones, or you can simply monitor what tasks give you energy and make you feel strong and which ones you procrastinate and make you feel weak. Staying in your strengths zone for most of every day adds to your longevity in your role as leader, and helps you avoid consistent frustration and burnout. And by being open and a little vulnerable and sharing your feelings and weaknesses with your people, they’ll stop talking about you behind your back and maybe come to your rescue when you get flustered.
Then there is the difference between whether you are an introvert or an extrovert. Introverts fill up their energy tanks by being alone, getting enough rest, and experiencing little stimulation and interaction at work. Extroverts, however, fill up their energy tanks by being with people and could go party-to-party and keep getting more amped up as they go.
How about one more practical exercise to reflect upon: I call it Fills and Drains. Just draw a line down the middle of a paper and put “Fills” at the top of the left column and “Drains” at the top of the right column. Now list what things at work give you energy, make you smile, give you joy and satisfaction. Then list the things that suck the life out of you, that cause you discouragement and anger, and make it a bad day. Try to get ten things in each column. What you must do with Fills is get them into your calendar more often to keep yourself buoyant, and what you must do with Drains is to make action plans to address them, set up boundaries against them, or just change your attitude and accept them.
I could go on, and I do recommend taking at least one self-assessment every year, but sometimes it’s just communicating the little things about yourself to your team. For instance, how do you best like to receive feedback? Which communication methods do you respond to most quickly? How do you build relationships? What are your pet peeves? What time of day do you not want problems presented to you? What information do you need to know? What is your favorite beverage? (OK, that one was self-serving!)
Self-awareness is the number one skill of CEOs that make $50 million or more. That’s saying something. When we aren’t self-aware, we are like an accident waiting for an intersection. We aren’t noticing the wake we are leaving behind our boat. And our people suffer. But all these assessments will help you embrace who you are and could culminate with writing your own personal mission statement, a phrase that is your “personal brand” (what you are known for) and a filter for the decisions you make in life so that you say YES to what is in line with your vision and NO to what is only sideways energy.
Once you know your personal leadership profile, you have to manage yourself every day—often the hardest person to lead in your organization. Powerful leaders have emotional awareness about their own life throughout the day. They are known for their authenticity and self-discipline. You see, even though you now have gotten reacquainted with who you are, there is a lot of the world around you who have opposite profiles as you or blends that have some similarities and some differences. In your role, you have to be a quick study of people and learn to custom-treat them in order to get them to listen to your leadership and to buy-in to your plans. When you are tempted to explode (or the opposite, become passive-aggressive) because someone is doing life differently than you would, you step back and manage your emotions, considering a different approach.
You can’t control much in life, but I do know you can control at least four things: Your attitude, your work ethic, your maturity, and your priorities. No one deserves a bad attitude from you. You must work harder than your most industrious employee. You must choose to “adult” every day and not behave like a child. And you must manage your time judiciously so that your life and business vision gets your focus.
You can teach what you know, but you will reproduce what you are—and attract and repel certain types of people to your business based on your style. Effective leaders take the time to reconnect with who they are and what they stand for, and then make choices each day to authentically and consistently live it out in front of their team.
Let me come alongside you as you lead your team through these exercises. I can customize team-building retreats that could bring your team closer together in unity, by understanding how each other are wired. Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org