By: Don Tyler
Self-awareness is our ability to see ourselves exactly as others see us. Fully self-aware individuals know how they are perceived by others and read other people’s verbal and non-verbal reactions to their comments and decisions with 100 percent accuracy. They do not deceive themselves by thinking that they are someone they are not.
In working with hundreds of managers over the years, I occasionally am called upon to try and coach someone with very little to no self-awareness. These are “blind” managers because they cannot see themselves accurately in any area of their behaviors. They have convinced themselves that they are the most efficient time manager, the best decision-maker and a wonderful people manager, yet fail to achieve even basic levels of consistent performance. If you ask them, their performance is exceptional, yet the production records confirm a completely different story.
A feedlot hired a cattle boss who had fairly good references, but once hired was barely mediocre in all areas. Records clearly showed that production had slipped significantly. The feed yard manager had provided good coaching that should have corrected the situation, but no improvement occurred. I spent a day interviewing the cattle bosses’ staff, and they all agreed that he was totally ineffective, couldn’t make decisions, lacked sound cattle sense, and failed to provide consistent management of the department.
The yard manager and I met with him at the end of the day, and he provided detailed descriptions of all the things he was doing perfectly as a manager. Regardless of the question, he had the “right” answer, but all of his responses were inconsistent with what his staff had witnessed—and the records showed. After an hour and a half of his explanations and fables of consistent success, the manager and I had reached our limit. I looked at him and simply stated, “With all due respect….If you were actually doing all the things you say you are doing, production here would be setting records….not providing proof of mediocrity.” He was blind to his ineffectiveness, and lived a life of self-deception rather than self-awareness. He was given 30 days to correct the situation, but left after only 10 days.
Though this true situation is a somewhat extreme example, it illustrates the level to which some can lack self-awareness. Many of us have a blind spot in one or two areas, so we need others to point those out for us.
Here are some strategies for dealing with a blind manager:
• Do regular coaching. Don’t wait until there is a crisis. Get people accustomed to discussions about their performance as soon as they are hired and make sure that these discussions are specific, production focused and positive.
• Establish clear expectations. Employees cannot reach the desired level of performance if it is not well defined and reinforced on a consistent basis.
• Have production goals. Each area of the operation should have written, regularly discussed, targets to achieve.
• Focus on facts, not opinion. If changes to procedures are made based on someone’s opinion rather than accurate production records, the employees feel like anyone can play along. They feel their opinions ought to be just as good as anyone else’s. Use production data to indicate the best way to move forward and improve performance.
• Strive for Excellence. Set standards high enough that they are a challenge to meet, and that require everyone’s full focus and 100 percent effort to achieve consistently.
• Praise regularly. I’ve done thousands of one-on-one interviews with employees over the last many years, and I have never, ever had an employee say, “You know what the problem is around here? I get praised way too much!” Praise is the deposit that we make in the Bank of Goodwill that allows us to make a few withdrawals when we ask people to work harder, put in extra effort, or modify their behaviors.
Total self-awareness is rare, but great coaches know that the process of improving overall self-awareness is essential to maturity and provides the best opportunity for a person to reach their full potential.
For more information on this topic and others related to employee management, contact Don at 765-523-3259 or firstname.lastname@example.org