Self Management

  • Admit it when you’re wrong. Be Accountable.

    There’s a consistent theme among the strongest performers and leaders I’ve worked with. And that is a complete willingness to both admit being wrong, and to take accountability for errors, mistakes, and poor performance. Even when those mistakes might only be partially the individual’s fault. Doing so indicates humility, self-awareness and confidence, and an accountability mindset.

    In contrast, when I work with a leader who often skirts accountability, or who is always ready with an explanation as to why they’ve been unsuccessful due to factors outside of their control, it can be a major red flag. And cultivating an accountability mindset becomes harder the more senior and the later someone is in their career. If a team member struggles to take accountability at age 50, I doubt they are going to get it by 60.

    Let’s use an example. You’re overseeing a large project to install and operate a new piece of manufacturing equipment in your plant. The equipment is delayed. Once it arrives, the installation representative from the manufacturer comes down with a flu and you lose two weeks while the equipment sits idle. Finally, it’s installed but the quality calibration is much more challenging than expected and you lose two months. Eventually, it’s installed, operating efficiently, and ready to produce parts. But the whole process has taken 8 months when the objective was to have it operational in 4.

    Here’s how a weak Operations manager might respond.  “We really did our best, but a series of unfortunate events happened. It’s really too bad, but sometimes, that’s the way it goes. Shelly in Procurement should have given us better information on the delivery date. I told Remy in Quality that we would need more time, but he didn’t listen. I did my best.”

    Here’s how an average Operations manager might respond. “We messed up on this one. We should have added more contingency time into the plan for all these unforeseen events. We won’t make that mistake again.”

    Here’s how an excellent Operations manager might respond. “We made a series of serious mistakes on this one. I take full accountability for the delay. First, we should have reviewed past data on actual vs. estimated delivery date for this manufacturer. Second, we should have had a planned, local backup for the installation. I’m not sure what happened on the calibration, but I’m going to work closely with Remy in Quality to learn what we can so I can plan better for next time.”

    Ultimately, the more you can embrace an ownership mindset and take accountability, the better you will become as a leader. Did someone on your team let you down? Your first thought might be “they suck”. But more importantly, could you have trained them better? Could you have hired better? Could you have set better expectations? It’s challenging but ultimately highly rewarding to take accountability, and your peers, direct reports, and boss will notice.

  • Self awareness is only half the battle

    Recently, I completed a refresher course on DiSC. DiSC is a popular behavioral self-assessment tool used to understand and measure individual behavioral types. I was first exposed to DiSC through a University course on organizational behavior and found it to be eye opening at the time. After completing a short survey, the software was able to generate a report with many reasonably accurate descriptors of my personality and tendencies. While the insights are far from perfect, it was and is a fascinating way to enhance one’s self awareness. Interestingly, the report I recently received is nearly identical to the first one I received almost 15 years ago; a testament to the idea that your personality and innate tendencies do not materially change over time.

    I believe a major component of professional development centers around a heightened degree of self awareness. Emotional Intelligence is defined as the ability to manage both your own emotions and understand the emotions of people around you… and unlike your personality, is an influenceable skill that can be learned, practiced, and improved upon over time. By better knowing yourself and how you react to various social situations, you’re better able to consciously manage your actions and emotions.

    There are all kinds of tools and courses designed to help enhance your self awareness, including popular ones like the aforementioned DiSC, as well as others such as Predictive Analytics or Myers-Briggs. While each tool has its own pros and cons, the fundamental theme is consistent: by better understanding yourself and your leadership style or innate personality traits, you are more likely to be an effective professional.

    Too often, I have seen folks undertake the self-learning process without translating it into behavior change. Better knowing yourself and how you work is great but if you don’t actually modify any behavior with your new-found knowledge, you won’t reap the rewards. And translating self awareness into action is the more challenging part of the professional development journey because it requires actual behavior changes in addition to knowledge alone. Like any learned skill, behavior change take practice and repetition to master.

    While it’s worth celebrating the act of undergoing these forms of training, it’s more important to focus on the actionable changes that heightened self-awareness unlocks.

  • Positive vs. Negative motivation

    People can be driven and motivated by a wide variety of reasons, some of which tend to be positive, and some of which tend to be negative. Both can be extremely powerful forces.