Sunday, July 30, 2006

Self-Leadership and more

By Andrew Bryant

Regardless of occupation or profession there is a career development milestone that few pass effortlessly and many never pass at all, and yet making this transition is essential to any growing business.

University training is focused on the students developing professional skills. As a professional you are expected to have a high degree of self-leadership, a component of emotional intelligence that includes self-awareness and self-management.

The nature of organisations is that highly skilled individuals are offered a promotion to managing others or in the case of private practice you may have promoted yourself by hiring staff. Problems arise when the professional assumes the same skills that he or she uses to manage themselves will work with others.

For the transformation to be successful the professional will require more than new skills they will need to take on new values and a new identity.

The foundation of self-leadership is self awareness, “know thyself” is the famous Greek maxim inscribe on that ancient oracle at Delphi. To know ourselves we must learn to ‘step back’ and become aware of our thinking and feeling. As a human we become emotionally intelligent when we rise above limbic system stimulus-response behaviours and engage our cognitive frontal brain to make choices.

Have you ever had a situation turn out badly or ‘lost it’ with a colleague or staff member? If you are not sure why you often behave the way you do then there is room to grow your self-awareness.

Step one is to realise that we respond not to reality, but our mental map or re-presentation of reality. Our inner map is not complete because we filter information through our unconscious prejudices. When you react strongly to a situation or person, you are reacting to your mental that is unlikely to be fully accurate.

When we are self aware we know what ‘pushes our buttons’ and choose to an appropriate response. Next time you feel your heart rate increase, your hands tense or the blood rushing to your face, ask yourself:

“What emotion am I feeling?”
”What is this about?”
”What map do I have about this?”
”What would be the best response?”

These questions train you to step back and observe your own thinking and feeling.

To develop self-awareness and subsequently self-management it is necessary to become conscious of our often unconscious values and intentions. Values are what we deem as significant or important and are as intangible as the wind but can wield the same force as a hurricane. You can access your values by asking the question “what’s important to me about…?” and then asking the same question about your answer.

For example:

Q: “What’s important to you about self-management?”
A: “It helps me be a better manager.”

Q: “So, what’s important about being a better manager?”
A: “It helps me get the best out of my people?”

Q: “So what’s important about getting the best out of your people?”
A: “We we will be more efficient?”

Q: “So efficiency is important to you? What’s important about that?”
A: “Well we can be both professional and profitable.”

Actually we could keep going, but in just four steps we have uncovered the values of people and efficiency and the intention to be both professional profitable.

You attention and energy will be driven by your intention. You intention is equivalent to the CEO of your mind, who has decided on the vision for you as an entity. If you have an intention to be the best professional in your field then you will perceive opportunities to achieve this. If your intention is to grow and develop people then your attention will be drawn to information to achieve this aim (such as this article).

Self management is about choosing your speech and behaviour in line with your intention. It can be distilled down to saying “yes” to what you value and saying “no” to what you don’t.

As an individual professional your intention and values are most likely to be:

Producing high quality professional work
Getting results through personal efficiency
Your self-management would include:

Daily discipline – arrival departure
Record keeping – client and financial
Relationship building for personal benefit
The transition to people leadership or coaching others requires a transformation of values and intention and subsequent behaviours.

Coaching is unlocking a person's potential to maximise their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them. Coaching facilitates the coachee to access their best performance by helping them focus, break down tasks and clarify their values. It is therefore often necessary for the new manager to receive coaching before they can coach others.

When coaching others you will most likely have the following intentions and values:

Seeing oneself as a manager/leader
Success through others
Seeing the potential in others
Empathy
Integrity
The whole unit over the individual

From these values you can develop the following skills:
Job design
Selecting people
Listening
Questioning
Outcome setting
Performance measurement
Giving and receiving feedback
Supporting
Rewards and motivation

Of all these skills, perhaps the most difficult is giving and receiving feedback as most people have had little or no training in either. Previous experiences of criticism or judgmental feedback have left many of us ‘gun shy’ when required to give feedback and yet this is the greatest gift for human performance.

Consider a person sitting on a chair facing a wall. Behind them is a bucket that they can’t see and yet their task is to throw a ball into the bucket. This analogy closely resembles many performance management situations. The manager can see the bucket (the goal, performance target) and behaves as if the employee can. When the employee misses the bucket (as is to be expected) the manager scolds the employee or gives non-specific feedback such as “you need to do better” or “that was close”. What the employee really needs is specific feedback that includes direction, distance and the amount of force required to get the ball in the bucket. The best result is when there is a climate of open communication where the employee can ask for specific instruction and receives it without fear of appearing stupid.

The metaphor for coaching is that the coach is a mirror; the coach does not impose his or her own mental map on the coachee but assumes that the coachee has all the resources and capacity to solve their own problems given appropriate feedback.

The payoff for developing coaching skills is an empowered team who are motivated and involved in achieving their performance targets and in many cases will exceed them.

Self Leadership International

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