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Self-Awareness (1)

9 Expert Questions and one handy Diagram for Building great Self-Awareness

The best starting point for any development and growth at work, whether as a leader, a team member or just as your individual self, is the place of “self-awareness”.

And I’m talking here of self-awareness in a wide sense.

If you’re looking at self-awareness just as an emotional intelligence tool, then you’ll be focussed too narrowly, just on the awareness of your own feelings. What I want you to get, is a self-awareness about the whole you. That’ll include your drives, flaws, experiences, ambitions, assumptions, patterns of behaviour, values, resourcefulness and more. But also, and maybe more importantly, the big picture of what it’s like to be you. And what’s it like to experience who you are.

This kind of deep self-awareness really is essential to any kind of development. It’ll answer questions right down at a tactical level about what you want to be doing with your time and effort and how best to interact with the world. And it’ll act as a kind of beacon, keeping you heading towards the more important, bigger picture of what you’re about.

Sometimes this kind of self-awareness is forced upon us when something we’re trying to achieve goes wrong. Then we have to re-assess things on a personal level. And at other times, self-awareness comes out of a ‘gap’, a sense that something’s missing or unfulfilled.

Overcoming the uneasiness and discomfort around this kind of self-knowledge is important both to make sense of what’s happened so far and to move forward.


If you wanted to get some more self-awareness without being forced into it by that kind of circumstance, how would you go about it?

One of the best ways is to pretend to be your own observer.
Check out the diagram alongside. (If you click it and then right-click it, you should be able to download a copy.)

First, imagine ‘seeing’ a version of yourself. Get a sense of who this person is, and what’s important to them.

Second, imagine you could observe how this person goes about interacting with the world about them and with other people.

There are many things you could be observing and getting a sense of, but to get you started here’s some of the things I’ll typically be asking my clients about to help them develop their self-awareness. We talk about them as if they were another person, so instead of saying “what’s important to you”, I’ll get them to practice being an impartial observer of themselves by asking, “what’s important to this person?”.

Here’s some of the aspects you might be considering as you pretend to observe yourself. It’s a fairly long and deep list, so don’t feel you have to get all of this straight away:

  1. What kind of things are really important to this person?
  2. What’s the story of how they got to where they are today? And what did they have to overcome, sacrifice or achieve to get here?
  3. What are they like, at their absolute best?
  4. What qualities do they have that make them a resourceful person? What personal attributes, skills and knowledge can they call upon?
  5. What holds them back or keeps them stuck?
  6. As they interact with the world, how clear are they about what outcomes they want?
  7. Thinking of a specific interaction that you want to understand more about, what was their intention at the outset? Did what they wanted to have happen, actually happen?
  8. How wide is the range of choices they have about how they approach things; do they have one typical way of operating or a wider range?
  9. What are some of the assumptions, hidden beliefs or ‘rules’ that they have about the world, about themselves and about others?

Great One-on-One Meetings for Busy Managers: booklet now available on Amazon

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Mindset & Leading with One-on-One Meetings

How to get your mindset right while you’re holding one on one meetings

If you’re leading and managing other people, then you’re almost certainly having one-on-one meetings with your staff and team members. I’ve spent a lot of time doing just that myself, and helping my coaching clients to be as effective as they can when they do the same.

To make all your one-to-one meetings go well, you need to be clear about the outcomes you want, to have a step-by-step process to gain trust, and be prepared to be flexible depending on what comes up.

But perhaps the most important thing my clients talk about, is having their own heads in the right place before they start.

If you want your one on one meetings to work really well, it isn’t enough to know what to do and how to do it, you also need to know what attitudes of mind are likely to get the best results for you.

Here are three of the most important ones:

1. Empowerment as an outcome of your management

You’ve got to want to inspire people to get more done under their own motivation and responsibility.

It’s a bit like having teenagers – they need to learn how to do stuff for themselves.

Until you’re prepared to adopt this as part of your mindset, you’re likely to be spoon-feeding people and picking-up after them long after they could have learned to do it for themselves. I think the trick here is to actually include empowerment as one of the outcomes you’re after. Put it up there alongside the tasks that you want this person to achieve and give it as much, if not more, weight as all the other important stuff you need to ensure gets done.

2. Coaching as a leadership style

This is where you put a big chunk of your leadership energies into the longer-term development of others.

It’s not the only leadership style you’ll need to use, but it is very effective and very rewarding for you. It’s also a good partner to empowerment.

You could think of a coaching leadership style as being NOT about you as leader having the answers, but about guiding people to find their own answers to things.

If I had to encapsulate it in a single phrase for leaders to use, it’d be something like:
“How about trying this…?”

3. The transition from doing to leading

The more your responsibilities increase, the more you need to shift from actually doing stuff yourself, to getting stuff done by acting through others – by leading.

If you’re like most people, you’ll have got to your position at least partly because you’re good at what you do. And so this can sometimes be a tricky transition to make, or even to be aware of its significance. It’s also quite scary because of course it takes you outside of what you know you’re good at doing, into possibly new territory – and people are often much more complex to understand and influence than the tasks themselves.

But this is a really important place to get your head into. Take a deep breath, stop doing stuff yourself, and start making sure that you act through others.


If you personally wanted to get the most out of people in your one-to-one meetings, what other attitudes of mind might also be important to you?

Great One-on-One Meetings for Busy Managers: booklet now available on Amazon

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Helping People to be Team Players

The top four reasons why people don’t always act as part of your team

Lots has been written about why people might want to be part of a team or group. But the issues behind why people don’t always behave like team players even when they could are much less well known. Even more unfamiliar are the steps you can take to get them back on-board, provided you know a little about what’s driving them.

I’ve set out below the top four reasons why people don’t always act as a fully-paid-up member of your team, and what you can do about it. There are more reasons than these, but these four are the ones you’re most likely to encounter at work. Let me know if you’ve got a different type on your team, and I’ll try to help!

Here are the four situations we’ll be looking at:

  1. The erratic shooting-star
  2. The defender of the status quo
  3. The detached daydreamer
  4. The toxic specialist

1. The erratic shooting-star

You may have someone on your team who is usually initially enthusiastic about new initiatives. Or who is always finding something interesting or shiny “over there”, slightly off the path of where you’re trying to get to. You may have seen that this person’s enthusiasm can often be enough to distract the rest of the team (and my experience is that they’re great at parties too). You’ll probably also have seen that they often run out of steam before actually delivering anything good.

To get this person fully on-board you’ll need to legitimise their investigations and explorations and make the most of their strengths. Find ways to have them investigate ideas, resources and opportunities. You may need to manage their expectations, so that what they are investigating are legitimate, current requirements for your unit, not stuff that is too far away from your goals. Have them present their findings to the rest of the team, and make sure that they get recognition for having done this. Do not make them responsible on their own for delivering on these ideas. But do enlist their help in keeping the people with lead responsibilities enthused and supported.

2. The defender of the status quo

You may have someone on your team who is usually responsible, committed and loyal. Yet there are times when people with these traits don’t act like complete team players. In my experience, this is particularly prevalent when forces outside your immediate team are driving changes. Or when there are on-going uncertainties in the external operating environment. In those times, this person may act like the last line of defence, holding back the barbarian hordes – when you actually need them to help with changing the existing order of things!

To get this person fully on-board you’ll need to do two things:

  1. Make sure that you (as the leader of the team) are fully committed to the changes that are taking place. You’ll need to be able to argue in their favour, both logically and emotionally. This is all about sending a clear signal of how you most need this person to direct their loyalty to you and the team;
  2. Help them see that there are practical steps you can all take to make the most of the changes or uncertainties. Boost their confidence by demonstrating that your team is not helpless.

3. The detached daydreamer

You may have someone on your team who is usually easy-going, agreeable and happy to go with the flow. But there may be times when you’ll find them saying yes to things without any real intention of doing them. Or you may notice them taking dubious short-cuts. If you’re not careful, you may not notice until it’s too late that this person has been ignoring problems or failing to deal with stuff – basically just sitting on it.

To get this person fully on-board with the team, recognise that what they really want is a sense of peace and harmony. They may have forgotten that to get to peace and harmony, we often need to work through problems with hard physical effort, not disappear into our inner worlds.

Make sure they are acutely aware of the problems or tasks that were previously being ignored. If possible, enrol others in expressing how uncomfortable or disturbed this person’s inaction has made things for them.

To the extent that you can, encourage physical exercise or assign tasks that involve physical effort to help get them out of their heads a little.

4. The toxic specialist

You may have someone on your team who has developed a deep understanding of a particular area. They may also be the “go-to” person, specialising not only in their subject, but also in their knowledge of the organisation and how to access its resources. In the bad times, you may find this person to be highly critical of others. And that there is a trail of ‘casualties’ in their wake – people who have not felt willing or able to live up to being their colleague.

The key thing to understand about this person is that, above all else, they value competence. As part of, or even leading, a team of competent, high-performing people with the independence to manage their way of doing things, they’re great! Change any one of those components and they can become extremely and unconsciously toxic.

There are three things you must do to help get this person back on-board with your team:

  1. Teach them that the abilities to get on with others of all levels of skill, and to develop their colleagues for the longer-term, are themselves competences. And that you require them to become good at these things too.
  2. Make efforts to enrol them in designing any changes to workflows (and they’ll be reluctant to ‘waste’ time on this). Do not make changes without genuinely listening to their views.
  3. Decide whether or not their value to the business, if they don’t change, is outweighed by the problems they are causing.

Great One-on-One Meetings for Busy Managers: booklet now available on Amazon

If you found this article useful, you might want to grab a copy of my latest short eBooklet from Amazon. Please use the buttons or image below to see a preview or buy your copy:

Coherent Teams

12 questions to answer when one important member of your team is not adapting to change or isn’t wholeheartedly on board

  1. Have you told them directly about what seems to be going on?
  2. Are they perhaps acting as the “unconscious voice of the system” – either as a safety valve that shows there is pressure in your organisation, or a warning signal that you’ve missed something significant?
  3. Is it really just them or, if you pay careful attention, are others also doing this?
  4. Is this a behavioural pattern for them that also occurs in other places and situations?
  5. Do you really need them to be any different?
  6. If the answer to 5 is “Yes”, have you actually asked them to change?
  7. If they were to change, what’s in it for them?
  8. What strengths and positive personal qualities do they have that they might apply in this situation (but aren’t currently applying)?
  9. What might they be afraid of (consciously or unconsciously), that is keeping them out of sync with your team?
  10. Can you adjust the circumstances in some way to better accommodate their preferred ways of doing things?
  11. Have you discussed this, in a ‘safe’ way, with the whole team present?
  12. What other support have you offered them to help adapt and/or get fully onboard?

Great One-on-One Meetings for Busy Managers: booklet now available on Amazon

If you found this article useful, you might want to grab a copy of my latest short eBooklet from Amazon. Please use the buttons or image below to see a preview or buy your copy: