As a manager, you might be viewing your actions differently than your employees interpret them. That’s what a recent study from Development Dimensions International suggests when it comes to innovation. Leaders consider themselves much more open to change than their subordinates do. In the study, leaders responded to a series of innovation-related statements about themselves, and their employees responded to the same statements about their managers.
The results are disconcerting. The chart below shows just how big a disconnect there is:
In some cases, it appears as though nearly a third of leaders think they are doing the right thing but aren’t really, according to their employees.
I’d argue that the ones who mistakenly think they’re “Creating freedom,” to use the third statement above as an example, are much worse off than the 31% who know they’re not. At least the latter group is aware of the problem—and, I hope, even working to fix it—whereas the former group is blithely unaware of its deficiency and certainly not focused on self-improvement. In fact, its members are patting themselves on the back for something they don’t deserve. I suspect that last part is especially off-putting to their employees.
Don’t be the clueless manager who has no idea what his or her strengths and weaknesses really are. It doesn’t matter if the issue is innovation or anything else. Be honest with yourself and practice regular, thorough reflection:
- Don’t rush through self-evaluation, even when it’s informal. If you’re looking over a list of leadership qualities—for example, integrity, strong communication skills, a positive attitude and so on—don’t simply scan the list and think, “Yup, I’m good to go. I’ve got integrity. I communicate well. I have a positive attitude. Good for me!”
- Stop and think about specific instances where you exemplified those traits at work. When and how did you show integrity? When and how were you a strong communicator? When and how did you exhibit a positive attitude?
- Follow that with an honest look at how you could have done better. When has your integrity wavered? What communication breakdowns have you been part of? What could you have done differently? When have you had a negative attitude? What caused it, and how did it affect your team?
- Commit to a self-improvement plan. We all can improve, even on traits that we’re generally good at it. You don’t have to tackle everything at once, but choose one or two things to focus on. Maybe, through reflection, you realize that your positive attitude disappears when you’re under a deadline and stressed, at which point you start snapping at your team members. Work to improve that one thing.
If you make real, honest reflection a regular part of your life, you might not be as self-satisfied, but you will be a better leader.
Have you ever worked with someone who wasn’t self-aware? How did that affect the work environment?