Being more self-aware is just as important for upper management as it is for employees
Merriam-Webster defines self-awareness as “an awareness of one’s own personality or individuality.” Let’s face it: whether you’re the CEO or the custodian, chances are that you’re not aware of many of your behaviors and how they affect the people around you. Many people tend to think that they are self-aware just because they try to be mindful of the things they say, but that’s not always the case. This is especially problematic for upper management who may feel inclined to bully and/or power trip employees to compensate for leadership failures, then the employees get used to walking on eggshells and not really living up to their full potential as a result. Neither of these behaviors foster a healthy workplace culture.
Hearing some gentle hints with a little dose of objectivity may work on employees who aren’t gelling with your management style or the company culture in general. But here’s some tips on how to help your employees become more self-aware and how you can be a better manager by doing so yourself.
Remember that they’re human beings with deeply internalized biases.
Your employees can’t just leave their emotions and biases at home even if they try to keep these things under wraps. Those biases can definitely manifest in some way for better or worse. People are people, and you should be self-aware enough to pinpoint your own internal biases before discerning how the people you work with may externalize theirs. But by making your employees more self-aware of these biases, you’re not just teaching them to work together more efficiently: you’re also teaching them to be better people.
Self-awareness doesn’t happen overnight or as a one-time deal.
Self-aware people take a look at the quality of their interpersonal relationships continually. Self-awareness doesn’t exist in this vacuum with a definitive start and end like a movie. When your employees are frustrated, make excuses, get defensive, and don’t communicate well with each other, it’s not going to be a fast and easy path to self-awareness. While they may recognize a bad behavior or prejudice against a co-worker over anything from their background to the TV shows they watch, they won’t start working well with that person after just one staff meeting or face-to-face chat with HR.
It’s important to foster a workplace culture that sees employees as people, not just job titles.
Effective leaders that foster organization-wide self-awareness focus on the person, not the task. How much do your employees trust one another? How hard do they hold grudges? Engage in counterproductive habits? What can be done to increase trust, respect, and understanding among employees and talk to one another as people? By focusing on who the person is and what they’re feeling, and why, it opens up more employees to become self-aware and take apart these behaviors and biases. Focusing on the role they have within the organization is really counterproductive.
Lead by example.
Management is very prone to lacking self-awareness. If you’re constantly getting defensive, avoiding confrontation, or making goals and promises that are just so absurdly huge there’s no way they could possibly be accomplished, it doesn’t give the employees an impression that their open and honest opinions about the organization’s goals and culture will be valued. An employee who feels diminished and not valued won’t be that interested in helping the organization fare better. You need to lead by example and not only continually examine your personal relationships and flaws and figure out how to improve them, but also admit to any shortfalls you’ve been responsible for. You’ll be respected and emulated far more for it.