SELF AWARENESS PART 1 – OVERCOMING WEAKNESSES
I‘m on the second floor in my home office searching for my wireless headphones. I’ve looked everywhere and I was positive I left them on my desk charging. I did this so that I wouldn’t forget them when it was time for my workout. I’m already 10 minutes late for the gym and I hate being late. “Quiana! Have you seen my headphones?” I scream downstairs. “Ask your sons!” My wife yells back. My response is directed at my twin teenage sons, “Boys! Have you seen my headphones?” One of my sons responds, “What headphones?” This, of course, is my first indication that he not only knows where the headphones are but likely has them. After a couple of questions back and forth one of my sons produces the headphones from their bedroom. “Oh, I forgot, I had them on while I was cutting grass.” After a stern reminder to not to touch my belongings without asking, I snatch the headphones, checking the battery life as I head downstairs to the car. Of course, the headphones are dead and my motivation to go the gym follows a similar path. As a result, I turn around and head back upstairs to my office, I’ll try the gym tomorrow.
I’m a scheduled oriented person. As my bio states I actually count time and keep schedules in my head, therefore when plans are derailed, I struggle to stay on task. However, because I know this about myself, I try to plan accordingly. For example, I keep an extra gym bag packed just in case I forget something. I also give myself plenty of prep time for the unexpected to arise, so I will have time to adjust. This is just one example of being self-aware and how to mitigate the negative effects of traits that have the potential to be counterproductive. Leaders must know themselves in order to properly account for weaknesses and capitalize on strengths. Below are a few tips to assist the diverse leader in accomplishing this goal:
KNOW, ACCEPT AND OVERCOME YOUR WEAKNESSES
Knowing your weaknesses is only one piece of the puzzle. Many leaders, recognize their weaknesses, but refuse to accept them and therefore are never able to overcome them. Leaders either believe that their weaknesses are only temporary or believe they have a minimal impact on how they’re viewed as a leader. As I’ve mentioned in a previous article, I am a warrant officer in the U.S. Army. A prerequisite for becoming a warrant officer is the completion of the Warrant Officer Candidate School (WOCS). This school helps to prepare warrant officers for roles as technical leaders and advisors. During my time at WOCS, I was presented with a number of tools to increase my self-awareness and assess my strengths and weaknesses. Among these tools was a version of the Meyer Briggs as well as numerous peer assessments. As a result of these assessments, I quickly determined I was process oriented and one of the weaknesses associated with this trait was rigidness and inflexibility. After learning about this weakness, I didn’t actively work to correct it. Unfortunately, it took some years before I began taking steps to overcome this weakness. It wasn’t until I self-assessed and evaluated feedback from subordinates, peers, and leaders that I took the appropriate steps toward change.
BE OPEN TO CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM
As a leader, you will make mistakes and in turn, you will likely receive some level of criticism as a result of those mistakes. As leaders, we need to use this criticism as a tool for overcoming weaknesses. This is easier said than done, especially if the delivery of the criticism is less than professional. Great leaders are usually passionate when it comes to performing their duties, and therefore criticism, even professional criticism can be difficult to accept. However, try to be objective and take a hard look at criticism. Often you will discover that there may be some truth and some tidbits to help you become a better leader. Some key questions to ask yourself are:
Is this the first time that I’ve received this feedback?
How would I respond if the tables were turned?
Can I attribute this criticism to previously identified weakness from a self-assessment?
DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR FEEDBACK
Great leaders have mastered the art of properly utilizing their resources to run an efficient and successful organization. However, we seldom employ the same tactics when looking inward. Leaders have a hard time asking for feedback or help when it comes to self-assessment and correction. They’re a number of reasons for this. In a recent article, David Sturt and Todd Nordstrom ascertain that leaders have a fear of looking weak, hence avoid seeking genuine feedback in order to correct weaknesses. Asking for genuine feedback and help in areas that you are unable to tackle on your own is a strength, not a weakness. However, you must be open and able to view feedback and suggestions objectively. As leaders, regular self-assessments and adjustments based on feedback and even criticism will ultimately result in better performance and more success across the organization.