The Self-Awareness Guy

enlightened leadership

Great Leaders Are Open to Change

Great Leaders Are Open to Change

I train many leaders and many of them have a difficult time dealing with change. The standard way of dealing with change in most workplaces is to get really upset and run around in great distress. Many people dwell on how things used to be and clutch desperately onto the old ways of doing things. This dynamic usually occurs because leaders and their organizations don't have the procedures in place to welcome change or view it as an opportunity for growth.

Change can be scary and daunting but what I've noticed affects workplaces negatively is how they deal with the situation. Leaders don't consciously try to complicate things, it's just that they don't know what to do and very often their leaders aren't helping them through the challenging situations. The next time you're experiencing any kind of change in your organization think about doing the following things to make it more difficult.

1. Pretend it's not happening.
2. Stubbornly keep doing what you've always done.
3. Whatever you do, don't change your perspective.
4. Complain to as many people as you can.
5. Don't buy-in to new ways of doing things.
6. Actively resist doing anything differently.
7. Stay nervous at all times.
8. Run around aimlessly.
9. Feed into the hysteria as often as possible.
10. Don't offer any solutions.

If you do these ten things you'll reverse the passage of time and you will go back to how things used to be. Realistically, you will have little or no impact on the changes going on which really leaves it up to you to decide how you're going to deal with what's actually happening. You have the ability to take even the worst situation and focus it any way you want. One of the great things about leadership is that you get to choose whether the change is a tragedy or an opportunity. What will you do to welcome change and use it to grow and succeed?



25 Leadership Traits of Great Leaders

25 Leadership Traits of Great Leaders

Here are 25 leadership traits of great leaders:

  1. They listen actively.
  2. They don't have hidden agendas.
  3. They don't have power and control issues.
  4. They've resolved their own personal hurts.
  5. They have empathy.
  6. They behave with kindness.
  7. They are self-aware.
  8. They are emotionally intelligent.
  9. They don't play favorites.
  10. They treat everyone with respect.
  11. They don't lead through fear, anger, or coercion.
  12. They know how to motivate people from within.
  13. They don't shout orders.
  14. They behave in a calm, balanced manner.
  15. They look for other people's strengths and encourage them to use them.
  16. Their co-workers and employees genuinely like them.
  17. They have low turnover in their departments or companies.
  18. They look for ways to make life easier for their employees.
  19. They pay well and offer good benefits.
  20. They don't create discomfort and chaos.
  21. They get along with people.
  22. They work well alone or in teams.
  23. They prefer two-way communication.
  24. They ask for feedback.
  25. They are constantly improving themselves.

Great leaders are always looking for ways to become better people, not just make money or force employees to do stuff. If you don't do all the things on this list, that's okay, it just gives you an idea of what to improve so you can become the most effective leader possible. Imagine your workplace being led by people who possess all these qualities. How do you make it happen? You train your leaders to behave like this.



5 Tips to Be an Innovative Leader

5 Tips to Be an Innovative Leader

Leaders have an amazing potential to make a difference in people's lives. Even our most basic actions can significantly impact clients, create new opportunities, change the world, or bring everything to a screeching halt. We personally choose whether we are leaders who make things happen or get in the way. Let's look at two leadership approaches that are commonly found in the real world: stagnation and innovation.

Leaders who choose stagnation find themselves continually endeavoring to maintain the status quo. They are often very caring and deeply committed to their organization but do the same things year after year. They cherish tradition and are comfortable with the staff, programs, mission, board, donors and volunteers they've had for years. There is little incentive for change in their organization because everything has run the same way for a long time.

An alternative approach focuses on innovation. Leaders who value innovation put systems in place that anticipate and welcome new challenges. They view change as an opportunity rather than a threat. Their organizations tend to encourage finding new ways of doing things and reward creative thinking. They benefit from being nimble and proactive rather than reactive.

The impact of each of these approaches on our clients is huge because we serve them differently if our leadership style is oriented toward stagnation or innovation. Leaders know intellectually that it's positive to welcome change and encourage innovation but there isn't a specific template for how to do it. Here are some practical tips to help you continue being an innovative leader.

1. Think outside the box and actually do it. Embrace a philosophy where you constantly seek extraordinary ideas and approaches. You will be better prepared to deal with the issues that come your way.

2. Help people shine. Find out what people do best and let them do it. Get out of the way and watch them grow. Be available if they ask for help but otherwise just let them be great.

3. Give up the need to control things. Let go of power and status and the need to be in charge. Invite new thoughts and perspectives. Remember that the cause you work for is far greater than any one person.

4. Practice excellent listening skills. Immerse yourself in what other people say. They will tell you what you're doing right or what needs help. Trust that your clients will tell you what they need and your staff will also teach you a lot.

5. Make some new friends and work with them. Partner with others and learn from their experiences. Forge lasting relationships that merge your talents and energy so you can serve even greater numbers of people.

Innovative leaders touch people because they know that leadership isn't about them, it's about everyone else. Think of a leader who made a remarkably positive impact on you. They likely took the spotlight off them and let you bask in the glow. The leaders who consistently achieve the best results are those who inspire others to shine.

A major benefit of innovative leadership is that it allows us to do more with less effort. We help our clients more efficiently because we think globally rather than according to some set script. We are more attentive to their needs and are willing to help simply because it makes us and them feel good. We go the extra mile because we are not afraid of the turns in the road.

Innovative leadership helps us let go of stagnation and start breathing fresh air. When we live without limits it opens doors of opportunity. If we shed our fear of change and chaos we get to see the world as a place where anything can happen. Without any boundaries, we are capable of achieving spectacular results. As leaders, we each have the potential to make a dramatic difference in someone else's life. Which path will you choose?


Self-Awareness in Leadership Development

Self-Awareness in Leadership Development

I've worked with a wide range of leaders in variety of public and private companies and organizations and I frequently get questions about the role of self-awareness in leadership development. I usually answer by saying that there is no such thing as effective leadership without self-awareness. Let's look at some differences between a leader with self-awareness and one who doesn't possess it:

Leader without Self Awareness

Reacts to everything, gets scared often, behaves in a domineering way, corrects employee behavior through punishment, rules through fear, creates chaos in the workplace, promotes high turnover, not emotionally intelligent.

Leader with Self-Awareness

Thinks and behaves proactively, shifts fear into courage, motivates people from within, praises positive behaviors, rules through trust and collaboration, creates a calm work environment, builds a workplace people want to stay at, is highly emotionally intelligent.

The strange thing I've noticed is that virtually every single workplace is like the first example rather than the second because we've become accustomed to leadership without self-awareness. It doesn't have to be that way. When I work with leaders, we look at ways to develop their self-awareness skills, things like:

  • Understanding how their emotions, behaviors, and actions affect them, others, and the workplace.
  • Recognizing their strengths and areas for improvement.
  • Being able to ask for help.
  • Being comfortable with employees' emotions.
  • Building teams and promoting collaboration.
  • Communicating effectively, listening actively.
  • Helping people motivate themselves instead of having orders shouted at them.
  • Behaving calmly instead of in constant emergency mode.
  • Behaving with kindness and empathy.
  • Building a highly productive workplace based on trust rather than fear.
  • Avoiding micromanaging.
  • Healing their own inner hurts instead of getting their stuff on employees.

The key to extraordinary leadership development is to build leaders who are self-aware and do things differently than how most of our workplaces have done them since the beginning of the industrial revolution. We now have the knowledge to create healthy, collaborative workplaces where people get a lot done and do it with a sense of fulfillment and joy instead of coercion and fear. All it takes is deciding to educate your leaders in how to be self-aware, everything else flows from that initial enlightenment.



8 Ways to Improve Long-Term Morale in Your Organization

8 Ways to Improve Long-Term Morale in Your Organization

Somewhere along the way someone convinced leaders that work had to be drudgery instead of fun. We've done a great job of designing companies that are highly productive and filled with employees who are miserable. Many organizations endure poor morale as if they believe they don't have any alternatives. Resourceful leaders and organizations understand that building long-term morale is vital to the success of their people and operations. Here are some ideas to help you design a workplace with great morale.

Leaders Create the Environment

Many leaders intellectually understand that happy employees do better work when people feel good but they don't know how to reliably improve morale and keep it going over time. They might try a company picnic or employee incentive program of some kind but those are only temporary fixes that yield limited results. Meanwhile, their employees are screaming for some kind of relief and even visitors notice that the company doesn't feel very welcoming. This dynamic occurs in countless workplaces because that's what we design through our policies and actions. We get poor morale because we create workplaces where leaders and employees behave in ways that lead to unhappiness.

Implement a Real People-Centered Philosophy

Many companies say they put their people first and then them, hamper their creativity, jam them in jobs they hate, treat them like children, work them to exhaustion, look at them solely as profit-creating objects or limit their ability to think and grow. A real people-centered philosophy requires a fundamental shift from the top down as to what employees really mean in the company. The goal is to move beyond words to actually instituting policies and procedures that demonstrate that we really care for our employees. These can include opportunities for education, flexible schedules, work at home, benefits, job autonomy or creating a workplace that values people's talents and encourages innovative thinking.

Leaders Set the Example

Leaders lead by example and set the tone for the organization. Anytime you see a company with poor morale you can be quite certain that leadership creates the situation through the actions they choose to take. If they behave in stressed-out ways then employees feel it. If the atmosphere is punitive employees pick up on it. Think about the difference between a leader who is calm and balanced and one that is always panicking. Which kind do you prefer? Leaders have a great deal of power in how the people in the organizations feel. If they treat their employees with kindness and respect at all times they create a much different workplace than if they're always belittling them. To build better morale in your company think about ways you can train your leaders to practice techniques that help them create a positive work environment such as active listening, two-way communication skills, delegating and team building.

Support Your Employees Instead of Bossing Them Around

Many leaders get caught up in the idea that they have to drive their employees like a team of horses. They push and push and push until they run off a cliff and then everyone loses. Many companies seem to run on the premise that employees are expendable and it shows in how they treat them. I'm not sure where leaders learn that the best way to motivate people is by imposing rigid order and dominance but ask yourself this question: Are you happy when someone is always in your face telling you what to do and to do more of it faster? A more positive approach is to move away from continuously bossing people around to being a resource that's available to help them if they need it. Be there for employees when they ask for help and share your knowledge only when they ask for it. Trust that they know how to do their jobs and drive them less. Offer them opportunities to grow, advance and become more educated.

Use Your Employees' Talents Instead of Putting Them in a Box

People feel great when they are using their talents and are genuinely interested in what they're doing. Identify what your employees love doing and encourage them do it in the context of their jobs. The ideal situation is to let employees design their own job based on their innate abilities and work they find meaningful. You will find that people will be much more motivated to perform at a higher level and will even come up with new ideas because they feel more worthwhile and valued. To find out what your employees love doing have ongoing conversations where they tell you what they find fulfilling.

Praise Genuinely, Constantly and Consistently

There is a huge void in many workplaces when it comes to leaders and co-workers telling each other that they're doing well. We're so praise averse that we think it will make people soft when it actually builds them up. Telling people they're doing a great job makes them feel great and greatly increases the likelihood that they will repeat the desirable behavior. Praising also helps you focus on successes rather than always correcting perceived mistakes or offering the dreaded constructive criticism.

Create Opportunities for Meaningful Interaction

Give people a chance to interact in positive ways and to get to know each other on a deeper level. Set up a regularly scheduled meeting time where people can talk with each other and share stories, ideas or personal perspectives. Give your employees opportunities to interact in ways that don't focus on job tasks. When people empathize with each other and understand each other's points of view it creates a workplace where people work well together and help each other succeed.

Keep Practicing

Nothing grows unless we water it and create a supportive environment. Long-term morale improves when we make sure we keep practicing positive behaviors and keep tending to the well-being of our leaders and employees. Plan on practicing your new approach until everyone learns how to do it automatically and it becomes the standard way of doing things. It will take some time but you will be happy with the results if you stick with it.

Boosting morale requires thoughtful and deliberate action over time. You have many options to improve how your employees feel and how your company functions and all you have to do is commit to taking action. Long-term morale can be greatly improved by practicing techniques that lead in a positive direction. Try the ideas we've talked about here and you'll find that your employees feel better about themselves, each other, your company and you.