The stakes are high for developing self-aware leaders.
Research has shown that high levels of self-awareness lead to better team performance and conflict management, but most people are surprised by the effect of their words and actions on others, writes Robert Sutton for the Wall Street Journal.
Leaders can unintentionally waste their team’s time with poor directions and unnecessary work, warns Sutton, a professor of organizational behavior at Stanford University. In his research, Sutton studies what makes some leaders oblivious and how they can be more self-aware. He outlines a few common mistakes oblivious leaders make and how to avoid them.
Mistake 1: You don’t monitor your teams’ workload
Many leaders struggle to accurately evaluate their teams’ needs and troubles, writes Sutton. He points to one executive in his study who frequently announced new companywide initiatives, but rarely followed through on them. For each new initiative, the executive’s team had to spend hours on training, meetings, and paperwork to learn management concepts the executive would abandon a few months later, writes Sutton.
To avoid assigning your team unnecessary work, edit their workloads based on whether their assignments directly contribute to the “group’s unique purpose… and what’s important to the larger goals of the organization,” says Liane Davey, a vice president of team solutions at Knightsbridge Human Capital. Make sure your team isn’t caught up in “low-priority work” that does not actively take advantage of their unique skills, says Davey.
Mistake 2: You don’t speak carefully
Many leaders don’t realize how seriously their employees can react to an offhand remark. If leaders don’t choose their words and tone carefully, they may deliver a directive when they only meant to make small talk, warns Sutton.
These miscommunications drain your team’s time and can lead to unintentional strategy shifts, writes Sutton. Often, this problem arises when employees don’t feel comfortable delivering honest feedback. If your team tends to read too much into your offhand remarks, remind them that you’re just thinking out loud and not making a formal request, he recommends.
Mistake 3: You don’t delegate
When you stuff your workload with low-priority tasks you don’t necessarily need to do, you leave yourself less time to execute on your role’s core tasks, writes Sutton. When you don’t have enough time to do your job, you slow down the workflow of your whole team, he argues.
How to become more self-aware
To be less oblivious, leaders need to seek out and listen to criticism, writes Sutton. If you notice that you only receive positive feedback, press your team for constructive criticism, he advises. And don’t just listen to your feedback, act on it and signal you commitment. After you receive feedback, choose a highly visible action that shows your team that you’re serious about improving