Off all the things I know, one of the realities in life is that we often misjudge our actual effect on people. We think we’re understanding, yet people don’t feel understood. We imaging we’re forgiving, yet people feel judged. We think we’re humble, yet we exude pride. We think we’re patient with people when in reality we give up on them easily. We think we’re great managers, yet we have a reputation for being a micro-manager. And I could go on.
We generally see ourselves in a good light, as the person we hope we are. We know we’re not perfect, we’ll admit we’re not perfect, so there’s no deception there it seems. Yet, there is a disconnect between how we see ourselves and how others see us.
How can we be so out of touch with who we really are? Where’s the disconnect?
As I’ve trained literally hundreds of managers over the years, I consistently see surprise in their eyes as we discuss some of the characteristics of dysfunctional (non-effective) leadership. Until they take stock of these characteristics most never really consider that their form of leadership may actually may be more damaging than helpful.
I remember one manager who literally cried when she came face to face with the reality of how she had been leading people. It was eye-opening; and it changed her.
How can we be so self-deceived?
It is because we are typically not one thing—one person. Most of us are not total Micro-Managers, or always humble, we don’t understand everybody in every situation, we are not gracious and forgiving to everyone, and we aren’t patient in all situations. There are people and situations when in fact we have been understanding, so we see ourselves as understanding. There are people and situations in which we have forgiven people and give them grace, so we see ourselves in that light. There are times when we have in fact been humble, so we see ourselves as humble. And there have been times when our management of people has been impactful, so we see ourselves as great managers.
But we are all to some degree versions of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In order to unpack our reality and see ourselves as we truly are we need a good mirror. We need honest feedback from people who are willing to lovingly “tell it like it is.”
To set up a feedback session here are the questions you need to ask:
• How do our Team Members see me?
• Do you think they feel like I’m (humble, understanding, patient, forgiving)? Whatever the traits are that you feel you exhibit. How would you describe my key characteristics as a leader/manager?
Your job during these sessions is to listen and take notes. And if you’re surprised by some of the answers, be humble enough to receive them. Use it as an opportunity to grow.
I would then suggest you carry with you some note cards as a reminder of how you want to be perceived and the behaviors that would deliver that feeling.
This is not disingenuous, but a good way to modify our behavior. Prompting or reminder cards are a proven way to help anyone change and alter behavior.
One thing for sure, if you know how others are impacted by what you say and how you act you have a better chance at leading them in a way that makes them want to follow you.