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What Makes a Great Leader? Self-Awareness is a Good Start.

Posted by Susan Sullivan on Aug 19, 2015 12:00:00 PM

leadership_signIf you are in a leadership role—or you aspire to a leadership role—consider spending time on a regular basis thinking about how and what your words, actions and behaviors are communicating to your employees, colleagues and peers.

I recently came across a link to an article titled “Half of Employees Don’t Feel Respected by their Bosses” in one of the e-newsletters to which I subscribe.

Although I nearly hit “delete,” I decided to give it a quick read.

The article, published by “Harvard Business Review,” was written by the author of a study in which 20,000 employees around the world were surveyed. Of that number, half reported that to feel fully engaged with and invested in their organizations, they need just one thing from their leaders: Respect.

“…[N]o other leader behavior had a bigger effect on employees across the outcomes we measured,” wrote Christine Porath of Georgetown University, noting it was more important than employee recognition, appreciation or opportunities for professional development.

After studying civility for 18 years, she believes disrespect is caused by a lack of self-awareness. “Only a masochistic four percent claim they are uncivil because it is fun and they can get away with it. More often, people just do not realize how they affect others. They may have good intentions, but they fail to see how they are perceived,” Porath commented.

What personality quirks or traits do you know about yourself that you can adjust for greater workplace success?

  • If you aren’t a morning person, you may want to avoid a potentially sensitive subject like an employee performance evaluation until later in the day when you will less likely be perceived as uncaring or gruff when in reality you just aren’t alert yet.
  • Likewise, if a direct report or colleague stops by your office at 4:30 p.m. to discuss a fabulous new idea but that is the time of day your attention begins to waver, ask if he or she is available first thing in the morning.
  • Ask trusted mentors or close colleagues about ways you can improve. Take a few minutes at the end of your next staff meeting to ask directly for open and honest feedback, whether it is positive or negative. Or, better yet, create an anonymous way for your employees and peers to comment.
  • Is your way the “right” way or the only way? When performance is good or an outcome is excellent, does it really matter how that outcome was achieved? Maybe. Maybe not. If it isn’t a mission-critical operation, learn to let go so employees can have some autonomy, even if it isn’t the way you would do it.
  • No matter how excited you are about an issue, let others talk. Try not to interrupt or hijack someone else’s thought before they are finished speaking.
  • Truly listen to junior staff, even those you think are “inexperienced,” because they offer fresh perspectives that might just be what your organization needs. Don’t automatically discount their ideas because they aren’t at your “level” of seniority professionally.
  • Write a thank you note to employees who go the extra mile (and even to those who don’t—they just might surprise you after receiving it).

What other leadership strategies do you have for greater workplace success?

Topics: Leadership, Leadership Strategies

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