The Self-Awareness Guy


The Worst Leadership Style in the World

There are a lot of bad leadership styles that wreak havoc in workplaces around the world, but the worst is:

The Tyrant

This awful leadership style is practiced by people who feel powerless inside, usually because of things they endured in their own families, and then feel they have to take it out on their employees. The Tyrant marches around giving orders, demanding complete obedience, and getting really angry when things don't go his or her way. They are not open to suggestions and only really care about bossing people around no matter how miserable it makes everyone. Their only concern is the bottom line, people don't matter and human emotions are a foreign concept. Tyrants don't listen and don't care what their employees have to say, they just care about looking "strong" and in command.

The Tyrant lacks empathy and has no idea what the consequences of his actions are. Strangely enough, even though we instinctively know that tyranny is not a positive thing, most workplaces are run by people like this or some variation thereof. We've somehow convinced ourselves that the best leadership model is where some "strong" person walks around barking orders and punishing people if they don't follow them. The common variation on this theme is the person that does these things but smiles once in a while.

We can do better than this, here's how:

  • Encourage leaders to become self-aware and emotionally intelligent, to understand why they feel, think, and act the way they do.
  • Have leaders work through their own personal issues before trying to lead others.
  • Provide training that builds empathy and compassion.
  • Teach leaders how to motivate people from within.
  • Promote workplaces where people come first instead of the bottom line.
  • Teach kind leadership, which means leaders who are able to motivate their employees through kindness instead of fear and control.
  • Commit to building workplaces where people are nice to one another.

None of these things is unachievable, it's just that we've designed our workplaces to revolve around some hurt person giving orders when there are a lot of much more positive things we can do instead. Contrary to popular belief, you can get a lot done without treating people poorly. What are your suggestions for getting rid of tyrants?



How to Be Stingy with Praise

I work with many different leaders and organizations and I get a feel for how their workplaces run by observing how they interact in the training we do together.  I regularly notice that when the topic of praise (or praising employees) comes up or when we discuss praising people on the job one or more people will raise an objection.  It usually goes something like this:

  • You have to be careful about praising too much.
  • It's counter-productive to praise all the time.
  • It's phony to praise people a lot.
  • Praise makes people soft.
  • Praise makes people achieve less.
  • How do you praise everyone when only one person deserves praise?
  • Why would I praise bad behavior?
  • I don't believe you.
  • That doesn't work.

The remarkable thing about these types of statement or questions is how much they illustrate our discomfort about praising employees.  Perhaps it comes from our families; where we had to prove our worth or rarely (if ever) heard a supportive word.  It could arise from never having worked in an organization where praise was part of the culture or leadership praised often.  These thought patterns become entrenched in us to the point where we'll argue about whether praise is positive and behave accordingly.

What I've come to realize is that people are suspicious of praise primarily because they have not yet experienced it in action.  Praise builds workplaces where employees feel valued.  It is also one of the best tools to increase the likelihood that employees will repeat a desired behavior and find other ways to contribute.  People like it when someone appreciates the work they're doing or the ideas they bring to the table.

Leaders who are stingy with praise tend to create workplaces where people are starving for recognition, feel unappreciated and where productivity, procedures and rules take precedence over people.  Praise offers a great opportunity to create a workplace that celebrates instead of castigates.  Here are some guidelines for praising people:

  • Praise positive behaviors.
  • Be genuine and generous.
  • Praise specific things that people are doing well.
  • Distribute praise evenly, find something positive each person is doing.
  • Make the praise about the other person, keep it brief and focused on them.
  • Keep praising until it becomes the new culture.

The trap many leaders get caught in is thinking that praise is stroking people for bad work when it's actually about celebrating good work.  We've been conditioned into thinking that criticism and directives are the only ways to motivate people when a simple, "I appreciate the great job you did," does much more for building morale and motivation.  What are your tips on praising in the workplace?



How to Fix a Problem in Your Relationship

Many couples reach challenging points in their relationship and don’t know what to do about them. We repeat an endless cycle of getting hurt, hurting back and perpetuating the hurt through our actions. This often happens even in dating situations and marriages where both people are kind, intelligent and caring. So what is it that causes this conflict and what can we do about it. Here are some of the causes of conflict:

  • Neither person understands the other person’s point of view.
  • There is not a meeting of the minds on issues.
  • Neither side backs down.
  • Each side tries to win.
  • Neither side has the skills or knowledge to fix the problem.
  • The people involved are hurt, angry, frustrated or sad.

The good news is that you can help your situation by thinking about new ways of doing things. The key point is to start a process where nobody wins and both of you collaborate to find a solution that works for both of you. Think of some of the following ideas and begin connecting with your spouse in ways that will benefit both of you.

  • Both agree to talk.
  • Set up an interruption-free time to talk.
  • Agree on one thing to talk about.
  • Brainstorm possible ideas to fix the problem.
  • Evaluate each option.
  • Agree together on the resolution that works best for both of you.
  • Work together to take action on the resolution.
  • Move to the next problem.
  • Think about getting a neutral person involved to mediate.

I also encourage my clients to do away with the word “problem” and look at the challenges in life as opportunities for movement in a more positive direction. Looking at challenging situations in a positive light gives you the opportunity to actually fix things rather than repeating the same patterns.

So the next time you are in the middle of a fight, redirect your thoughts to the possiblity that both of you can work together and purposefully resolve the matter.



Water Seeks Its Own Level

An important part of building self-awareness is understanding the reasons why you surround yourself with certain people and how they affect the trajectory of your life. Ever notice that people tend to hang out with others who mirror or reinforce their behaviors? That's great if they're doing wonderfully positive things but quite another if they're not.

Water seeks its own level because it doesn't want to be out of balance. People are the same way because they can only achieve at the level they are ready for and seek out others who are at a similar stage. Difficulties and complications arise when individuals are deeply wounded or hurt inside and connect with others who join them because they are feeling the same way. It's how groups of people band together and do all kinds of awful things.

Thankfully, you don't have to live your life stuck in one place, you can keep improving yourself, building your self-esteem, and working on being a wonderful person. As you live more fully and authentically, you will attract people into your life who value how genuinely healthy you are and want to accompany you on your journey.

What are your thoughts on water seeking its own level?


The Person I Am Now

I wasn't always into self-awareness. The person I am now is very different from the one I was years ago. I used to be driven by the need to feel superior, obsessed with what others thought about me; the kind of person who would put other people down to feel better about himself. At the same time, I stuffed my feelings deep inside, tried to ignore them and, consequently, felt horribly unbalanced and unhappy most of the time.

I grew up in a competitive family where you had to fight to be seen and heard. I was not encouraged to acknowledge or work out any of my inner conflicts, I simply had to hold them in and try to appear invincible. My family was ill-equipped to deal with anything emotional. Sure, we knew how to be angry, or sad, or fake happy, but not how to really deal with the core issues that were troubling us. The only way I got any attention was to be dramatic or clown-like because everyone else was so busy sucking all the energy out of everything they touched. This environment taught me to keep things to myself.

When was in my teens, I was an insecure mess who didn't know how to deal with himself or others. I was hurting constantly but was not allowed to talk about it. I didn't know how to build positive relationships. In my twenties I had no idea who I was and treated myself poorly because of it. People on the outside would probably say that I was affable and outgoing, but inside I was a mess. I hurt a lot of people in my teens, twenties, and thirties because I didn't know who I was.

Somewhere along the way I realized that I felt uneasy and disjointed because I wasn't living life as myself. I had learned to conform to the wishes of my family or friends but I hadn't learned to listen to my own inner voice. As soon as I discovered I could be myself, I started shedding all the garbage that had piled up on me and became a kinder, more empathic, more whole person. I pursued my own goals in life and worked hard to live genuinely. Gradually, I began building my self-awareness and healing the hurts from my past.

The person I am now barely resembles the one I used to be. I love being this person and hope it helps build a better world instead of one filed with strife and sadness. What kind of person are you right now?