The Self-Awareness Guy
Team Building Means the Spotlight Isn’t on You

Team Building Means the Spotlight Isn’t on You


I design and facilitate many team building workshops and it's fascinating to watch how people relate to each other.  I'll often observe everyone participating actively but deferring to the leader or looking to him (or her) for permission to participate.  The other dynamic that frequently occurs is that everyone acts very outwardly happy and bubbly but, when we probe deeper, all kinds of rifts and conflicts are exposed that reflect the kind of workplace leadership has created.

When I see these types of interactions it tells me a lot about how workplaces are run and what kind of work environments they create.  Leaders have a dramatic effect on how team building is practiced in their workplaces.  Here are two different approaches.

The Autocratic Workplace

Everything goes through the leader and everyone is required or expected to check in with the leader before anything happens.  People are tentative and dependent because they're not encouraged to work on their own or make independent decisions.  The leader in these organizations often believes there are functioning teams but, in practice, the teams only operate based on his or her directives and limits.  Team building in this type of workplace is usually not very active because people aren't encouraged to work together and decisions are made through one central person rather than a group.  The spotlight is firmly on the leader in this type of organization.

The Collaborative Workplace

There isn't one central focus or source of information in this type of workplace because people are given the opportunity to share their wisdom and expertise.  Employees are encouraged to work collaboratively and share information with each other and the organization.  Leadership is available as a resource if people get stuck or actively participates as an equal partner in teams if invited.  Team building in this type of workplace is consistently positive because people are encouraged to work together.  The spotlight is on every member of the team because they all are welcome to share their insights and each person is valued as a contributor.

As a leader, you decide what kind of workplace you create.  If you value team building and help your employees collaborate you'll enjoy the additional brainpower, idea generation, improved interpersonal relationships and morale that comes from people working together well.  If you promote an autocratic workplace you'll create a different type of environment.  Both approaches can create productive, successful organizations but only one gives employees power and helps them feel like an important and valued member of a team.  Which will you choose?

Cheers,

Guy

Leadership Secrets of Inspirational Leaders

Leadership Secrets of Inspirational Leaders

When you're in a leadership position it's easy to lose sight of the big picture and lead by reacting to whatever comes your way. Inspirational leaders practice self-awareness by understanding how their thoughts and behaviors affect the people around them and their workplaces. Here are two leadership secrets that sit in plain sight but are overlooked by the vast majority of leaders:

It's Easy to Boss People Around and Tell Them What to Do

The most common leadership style is being directive and giving orders. It takes little skill to walk around telling people what to do, it's like asking someone to turn on the lights, throw out the garbage or get you a soda; there's limited complex thinking or interaction involved. In spite of this fact, leaders worldwide adhere to the view that all they have to do to inspire people is tell them what to do. If morale is low, just raise your voice and tell people to keep going. If something isn't working, just get angry and issue more commands. The missing element in this approach is the employee or co-worker; they have no input or stake in the process. People aren't motivated or excited to do great work when their voices don't matter and they're constantly being given directives. No matter how you package it, leadership by shouting orders is a one-way process that only satisfies one person.

You Get Better Results When People Motivate Themselves to Excel

People do better work when they motivate themselves and use their innate talents and abilities. Inspirational leaders know that, when they find out what people love to do and allow them to do it, they get much better results. These leaders hire individuals and delegate tasks that are meaningful to their employees and design their workplaces to help people use their brains and think critically. New ideas are welcome and creative thinking is encouraged. When leaders value people's amazing skills and let them assign themselves purposeful work, they're much more likely to do great things. Self-aware leaders get out of the way and trust people to direct themselves and, in the process, create a workforce that is more motivated and energized because they're treated like grownups.

You get to decide which of these two leadership approaches you practice in your workplace: Treat everyone like a baby or set up the conditions so they can shine. It's up to you whether you encourage your employees to be great or keep throwing orders at them. Which leadership approach will you choose?

Cheers,

Guy

Leaders’ Obsessive Focus on What Employees Do Wrong

Leaders’ Obsessive Focus on What Employees Do Wrong

Many leaders seem fixated on pointing out what their employees are doing wrong.  It’s as if they see themselves as omniscient sages whose sole purpose is to constantly remind people about the things they aren’t doing quite right.

Here’s a common situation that occurs in many workplaces and that illustrates how much leaders focus on the negative.  A bright, energetic employee comes to her supervisor with great ideas gleaned from her work experience and ongoing conversations with her employees.  She wants to explore and develop ways to use these ideas to improve how her department functions.  The supervisor listens to her for a minute or so, points out the things that are wrong about her ideas, gives her a lecture about what he sees going wrong, tells her what she should do and sends her off to fulfill his directives.  During the interaction her eyes gloss over and she moves from being excited and engaged to feeling chastised and unimportant.  The irony of the situation is that she had possible solutions to the very problems her supervisor talked about during his unsolicited critique.  Another wasted opportunity to improve their workplace.

It’s not that the supervisor was being evil in this case, it’s just that he’d been programmed to only see what’s wrong and impose his perspective rather than looking for what’s going well or entertaining other possibilities.  So what can leaders do the next time they feel the irresistable urge to critique or offer a “helpful” suggestion?  How about saying or doing something positive?  Let’s look at the difference between the two approaches.

When You Focus on What’s Wrong

Employee: I have this great idea for improving productivity.
Leader: That’s great, let me tell you what we’re going to do (rattles off list of everything that’s going wrong).

When You Focus on the Positive

Employee: I have this great idea for improving productivity.
Leader: I’d love to hear it (the leader listens and then encourages the employee to go do it on her own).

The difference between these two approaches is that one of them focuses on supporting people and encouraging them to grow and succeed.  As leaders, we often spend so much time correcting people that we forget that there is a lot they are doing, or could do, that is very positive.  The trick is to shift from always focusing on the negative to highlighting the positive.  Think about your own experience: Would you rather your boss allowed you to explore your great idea or spent a lot of time telling you why it’s wrong or why you should do it their way?

Leaders have the choice as to how they interact with their employees.  They can create workplaces that constrain and dominate people or environments where new ideas are encouraged and celebrated.  What will you do to focus on the positive things your employees do?

Cheers,

Guy

The Emptiness of Power and Control

The Emptiness of Power and Control

There is an emptiness to power and control that many people in positions of affluence and influence experience when they increase their self-awareness and realize it doesn't matter how much they dominate others when they themselves don't feel balanced and happy inside.

A lot of people seek power and control even though it doesn't provide them with deep, abiding fulfillment. Sure, it can produce temporary, superficial gratification, but that doesn't feed the need for meaning. The only way to be truly happy in life is to have inner power and control by healing one's hurts and being as healthy as possible toward oneself and others.

A lot of people think having power and control means subjugating or dominating others; qualities that are dramatically different from inner peace and balance. The key to living a genuinely happy life is to be so self-aware that it radiates outward and helps others grow and succeed. What do you think about power and control?

Cheers,
Guy

How to Increase Self Awareness in Communication

How to Increase Self Awareness in Communication

Here's how to increase self-awareness in communication:

  • Listen actively.

It's that simple. The problem is that our culture teaches us to interrupt, interject, dispute, cajole, get angry, become defensive, fight back, and any number of things that absolutely do not improve communication. Active listening is an excellent tool used by self-aware people who understand that communicating with another person is not about imposing one's will, it means learning about the other individual and gathering information. Here's how you listen actively:

  • Try to communicate with people one on one or in small groups.
  • Communicate at times when everyone is able to participate fully.
  • Set aside a quiet place to talk about meaningful things.
  • Sit on the same level, not separated by a desk or other objects.
  • Make time to talk thoroughly, without interruptions.
  • Decide with the other person what the topic at hand is, both of you agree on what it is, no one imposes the topic.
  • Once the topic is decided, let the other person tell their story.
  • While the other person is talking, the only thing you should do is listen carefully to everything they have to say. Don't think of how to rebut, or argue, or contradict, or direct the conversation. Just listen intently.
  • When the other person stops talking, and only then, ask any open-ended questions you might have and then let the other person talk again.
  • Repeat this whole process every time you talk with someone.

Active listening is the opposite of our standard way of communicating where we pile on each other and hope someone understands something. People who possess self-awareness are healthy and comfortable enough to give the other person the space to simply talk. This process will seem difficult at first but, over time, it will become your new way to communicate much more effectively.

Cheers,

Guy