Employers in the twenty first century are facing challenges that the world of business management has never seen before. As the “Baby-Boomers” retire we will soon be facing a critical and overwhelming labor shortage. The Boomers and their children chose not have as many children as their parents did and employers are now on the verge of actually having far more jobs than people to fill them. Voracious corporate appetites for increased production and financial growth must be fueled by a continuous supply of good quality candidates for employment. There will be some casualties in the fight for good workers and the weak will not survive for long. Those employers who invest time, effort and resources in sophisticated employee recruitment, development and maintenance programs will prevail in the brave new world. It should be the goal of every business to become The Employer of Choice in their field if they want to survive.
There are thousands of companies and individuals in North America and abroad in the business of leadership training and development. You can hire them at great expense to come into your place of business and train you and your staff to work together more effectively and efficiently. You can have them teach personal development theory and better communication methodology. Some will teach customer service techniques and others will teach confrontation skills along with attitude adjustment lessons. Some will offer personality testing and individual employee reviews while others yet will provide executive coaching and personal coaching for your workers. You name it and you can have it...for a price! The ranks of the gurus of human communication and business development are growing daily. Leadership training is a multi-billion dollar business and it shows no sign of diminishing in the near future.
What employers sometime fail to understand or accept is that there is no magic pill or silver bullet to repair their staffing woes. Once the hired-gun leadership gurus have left their premises, they are on their own to maintain a positive, happy workplace loaded with loyal, efficient workers. Bosses need to understand that it is they and they alone who can make their business successful. People who sit in positions of authority need to realize that all eyes are on them. They are on-stage twenty four hours a day, seven days a week and they need to be able to communicate and bond with the people that work for them. They must be beyond reproach and they must understand the needs and wants of their employees. For today’s workers, a job is not a privilege…it is a right and if they don’t like the job they have or the boss they work for, they can simply get another one. If the actions, attitudes or vision of the boss is not acceptable to the employees, that business may find itself in the ranks of the forgotten sooner than expected. Today’s employers must be great leaders. There is no longer a place in business for despots, dictators, or absentee overseers. Bosses must work side by side with their employees and they must never take them for granted. They must show that they care and they must always dispense their favor and discipline fairly and consistently. They must understand that no matter how good their products are or how many years they have been a household name in the hearts of their customers, without a strong, loyal workforce they have nothing.
In order to be a great leader, an individual must understand his or her own personality and motivations. They must know and understand how they affect others and how well or how poorly they present themselves in each and every situation. Bosses must know themselves better than they know anyone else on the planet if they expect to succeed. Self awareness is the key to effective leadership and it resides in the soul of all great leaders, past and present. In the words of Walter Kennedy, “The difference between mediocrity and greatness is self awareness.”
An amazing but all too common human trait is that most people really have very little idea of how others view them. They have a vision of themselves that is irrefutable and they often believe that their view is the universally accepted view. It is also surprising how some people continue to pass along insults, slights, and simple rudeness day in and day out, oblivious to the fact that they are losing the respect of more and more people every day. People in authority often believe that their motivations, behaviors, and attitudes are the best and in some cases, the only way to live and work. They make the assumption that they are right and therefore anyone who disagrees with them must be wrong. Some also believe that they worked hard to become the boss and now they have the ‘right’ to make unreasonable demands while forcing their personal agenda on everyone in their employ. Some believe that respect should be automatic for a person in authority and that they have an indestructible lock on employee loyalty. That attitude might have worked in the days when there were more workers than jobs, but in the twenty first century, such egocentric, regressive thinking will simply not work. Today’s employees only respect employers who work hard to earn their respect daily and they are only loyal to employers they feel strongly positive about. Strangely, many bosses think they are effectively expressing compassion, kindness and fair treatment because they give out an occasional bonus or make some great promises during a speech or in a corporate communication even though their day to day actions would indicate a complete lack of compassion. From these people, even positive reinforcement and complimentary emissions are usually rejected as some sort of management ploy. People in positions of authority are often oblivious to their own shortcomings and cannot see how repugnant they are to the people around them.
“So how does one discover self awareness?” you ask. “And how does one know if the awareness they find actually represents what other people see and feel?” you might worry. The answer is quite simple…Ask someone! Every person should have a personal coach to help them understand how their actions affect others. Your personal coach is not there to tell you how to do your job. They are only there to motivate you to better behavior by discussing any potential flaws, shortcomings, or warning signs that they might see. That coach can be anyone from a co-worker, to an outside consultant, to your spouse. However, the person chosen must be emotionally able to provide an impartial, detached opinion. They must also be able to be honest in the toughest of situations where difficult or hurtful things must be said. It is important that you accept what your coach is saying and that you do not take anything personally. You must provide your coach with an environment of trust and safety. He or she must believe that they can speak their mind without fear of harm or retribution. Conversely, your coach must be a person of the highest character, someone you trust implicitly to always speak honestly, and who consistently has your best interests at heart. Once you have selected your coach and they have agreed to help you, rely on them to be the window to your consciousness and your soul. Every time you fail to get a favorable reaction from someone, explain the situation to your coach and ask them what might have gone wrong. They won’t always be right, but they will give you an impartial second opinion based on their view rather than yours. Your coach can also be useful as a sounding board for ideas and concepts that you plan to introduce to your workplace. Again they can provide an impartial point of view to help you make the ideas palatable to others.
Another useful tool to assist with finding self awareness is a personality assessment instrument. There are a number of assessment programs on the market today. Most are available online and the survey and response times are extremely short. Despite their relative ease and speed of completion, these tests can provide valuable insight into your motivators, behaviors and natural skill levels in various areas. The information they provide is based strictly on your personal response to a series of questions so in essence, you are completely and personally responsible for the results. Once you have taken the assessment survey, have the report professionally reviewed so that you understand it fully and then give a copy of it to your coach. Because your coach will have a detached view of your motivators, behaviors and skills, they may be better equipped to accept the results of the assessment and utilize it to analyze why you might react in a particular way to a particular stimulus. They may also be able to warn you off from situations that will be unpleasant or difficult for you within the confines of your natural tendencies.
Since people tend to want to see the best in themselves, your coach can act as your alter ego and let you know when you are being rude, disrespectful, abrupt, arrogant, inconsistent or unreliable. They can also monitor your social awareness levels and warn you of inappropriate humor, inappropriate touching, talking down to others, obvious lying, or making promises you can’t keep. With constant reminders and practice anyone can improve their self awareness. Ultimately and ideally, the result will be that your social behavior and leadership skills will improve dramatically. When those skills become evident to your employees any positive reinforcement or complimentary behavior that you employ will be accepted and appreciated.
The bottom line in your search for self awareness is self-honesty! To be aware of yourself, you must be honest with yourself. There are probably a number of things that have left you unfulfilled or dissatisfied during your life. The chances are they were things you either had no skill in or where you completely mishandled the situation. You might have allowed yourself to move past those situations by blaming someone or something else. Have the courage now to face up to your own shortcomings and take responsibility for your own actions. Accept that you are not an expert in “everything” and be aware that there are many areas in your life that could stand improvement. Allow yourself the luxury of being wrong occasionally and accepting the fact that you don’t have to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. Once you have committed to the fact that you are not perfect and there will always be areas where you can use help, you will be on the path to self awareness. Once you gain a greater level of self awareness, and you allow yourself to be vulnerable, you will be much better equipped to deal with the huge concept of becoming The Employer of Choice in your industry. You will never achieve positive passion until you achieve self awareness.
Open yourself up to self awareness and give yourself the option of becoming a great leader!