Managing Yourself and Self Awareness
When you do a MBA part of the course will focus on self, how you manage yourself and how to develop self awareness. In today’s article I discover that I don’t actively listen, sometimes let stress take control (especially when I am busy) and that I don’t like feedback that isn’t in line with my thinking. I then think through some strategies that can help me improve in the future.
I first wrote this paper in August 2009 and I know that I have developed as these elements are no longer gaps for me and what’s better is that when in this situations today I know what I want to do naturally so I am better equip to resist. Enjoy!
When I conducted a personality profile I discovered that I scored low on managing stress and developing self awareness. When probed further I understood that I don’t manage stress when interrupted while I am under work pressure or working within a complex task. Similarly in developing self awareness I scored low on seeking feedback from others and being self disclosing to people outside my team (Whetten & Cameron, 2005 p.23).
In order to develop as a manager I need to address these gaps. To improve in managing my stress I need to develop active listening skills. Yukl (1998, p.97) states in the guidelines for active listening that “avoiding distractions such as” looking at emails or continuing to work half way through a conversation is saying to the other person that you do not value their comments.
I can improve by adopting active listening principals (Rogers and Farson, 1987, p.2) including stopping immediately, minimising Microsoft Office, putting my pen down and showing empathy. I can give attention by maintaining eye contact, having an alert posture and using facial expressions (Yukl, 1998, p. 97). I can also restate what the staff member has said, take notes or show empathy to show that I am listening. I need to constantly remind myself that I can develop trust with others by listening (Brodow, 2008) to them rather than being distracted.
It is also important that I reflect on my MBTI score that suggests that I don’t enjoy interruptions. So, if I am working to a deadline then it would be better for me to negotiate some quiet time from interruptions to complete the work. But if my door is open then I need to be prepared to handle interruptions effectively. I also rate low (3/9) for active listening as per the McShane and Taragilione (2005) active listening inventory and need to focus more on improving in this area.
My Carlopio (2005 p.158 & 222) stress management score is 50/72 which puts me into the highest quartile of managers. However I did score a low score for using others to achieve work tasks and deadlines. By not delegating I increase my stress when working to a deadline and this leads me to not actively listen to my team and others.
The second skill gap is that of not enjoying feedback due to a low self awareness. Not enjoying feedback makes me defensive, and like a lot of males, I see it as a form of weakness (Rideout and Richardson, 1989, p 529). Throughout my career I have never actively sought out feedback, but am always happy to hear when I am performing. To hear constructive feedback is more difficult for me. My manager used Yukl’s “Guidelines for Developing” (p. 102) on me during my performance review. He coached me in helping me to analyse my previous performance, gave me some guidelines for improvement and praised me for a recent time when I assisted one of my colleagues (Yukl, 1998, p. 103-104).
Throughout this process with my manager I became more conscious of my behaviour, even when I am angry with another individual. It started to make me aware of 360° feedback – getting information about myself from my team, my colleagues, my manager and others that interact with me at work (Farham and Stringfield, 1998, p.518). This is new for me; I now know it’s acceptable to ask for feedback, as opposed to a sign of weakness.
For me there are several lessons from this process. I need to be more inclusive in the way I deal with others outside of my team and to self reflect more to identify what signals I am giving to others (Thuraisingham, 2008). I also need to be willing to accept feedback without getting defensive and to ask for 360° feedback for my own development (Thach, 2002, p. 205-206). This links with lifelong learning and that I need to form a habit of learning about myself (Drucker, 1994, p. 8). In the recent past I have struggled to work effectively with others outside my team, therefore wasting an opportunity to get others to support my ideas. A critical aspect of teams is commitment and trust (Katzenbach and Smith, 1992, p. 11) and I need to accept that in the past I haven’t always fostered this outside my own direct team.
If I can put into action the ideas generated above then I will be able to build and maintain better relationships (Yukl, 1998, p.115) with people both within and outside my immediate team.
The final step is to implement an action plan to ensure I improve my behaviour.
The key lesson for me is that I need to self reflect more so that I have more knowledge of my deficiencies and how to improve. This will help me to generate choice (Thuraisingham, 2008) on how I can change my behaviour and develop new ways of thinking.
With active listening I need to:
- Stop what I am doing and focus on the individual with active listening techniques including empathy;
- Close my door if I have a deadline to reduce interruptions, but to only do this as a last resort; and
- Acknowledge that active listening carries a risk for me in that I can change myself and my perceptions. It will also require practising (Rogers and Farson, 1987, p. 5)
With feedback I need to:
- Actively seek 360° feedback from my colleagues, team members, my manager, manager once removed and others within the department so that I can improve; and
- Have respect and trust with the other members of my department.
I need to implement these action items immediately. The success of these actions relies solely upon me practicing these theories in my work life. There are risks, however. The main risk is that I may get too busy at times and revert back to my old habits. By self reflecting and concentrating on changing I can make these behavioural changes and reduce the risk. The other risk is actually a positive: by actively listening I may change my perceptions and get a better outcome for myself, my department and the company. I can gauge my progress by sharing my skill gaps with my colleagues and asking for regular feedback.
The major obstacle is me. To this end I am dedicating the first 15 minutes of each day for reflection and review of my performance. This helps me to gauge my overall improvement. I am also actively seeking 360° feedback and using this as another measure of my progress.