If the answer is “not much because I do not have time for it” or “I don’t need to because I am already doing well and getting what I want done” then it is time for you to have a serious reflection.
If it is the former then you need to make space for it as it is important and will become more so going forward with increasing volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA), what worked in the past may not work in the future and certainly not with the same potency. There is a good article with some positive recommendations that you should read - Is being “Time Poor and Harassed” the “New Black” for Managers and Leaders?
If your answer was the second one, then perhaps it is time for you to have a deep introspective look with the help of some psychometric instrument to help you to see what you are not currently aware of. There are things you are not aware of that, while they may or may not de-rail your leadership impact, will impact how easily you can get what you want to achieve done with others.
So what should you be doing?
Make time to reflect
Stop and think. How am I doing? With the business or our specific business activity we have indicators and early warning systems in place that alert us if it is not on the desired track and may need to take some corrective actions. A regular challenge in this VUCA world is the question – Is my business fit for the next 3 to 5 years? Similarly, with your leadership impact, what are you using to indicate to you that all is going well? It is important for you to create space for yourself to reflect on – Am I and my way of leading fit for the next 3 to 5 years?
Assess how well you are currently doing
So what should I be looking at to assess how well I am doing? Here are some guidelines to prompt some key things to reflect on about yourself in your leadership role.
- Critical reasoning – how effective and thorough are my personal reasoning processes? Do I look deeply enough into all the angles of a problem and make the effort to construct a logical step by step analysis? Perhaps I may need to flex my rational thinking and bring it to a level deeper than I am used to doing. Or am I spending too much time analysing and need to develop a level of confidence with a sufficient level of analysis? How effective is the way I think for handling the challenges I face and what could I do to make it better?
- Emotional – how am I feeling? When was the last time you stopped to reflect on how you were actually feeling? It is important. How we feel is going to affect how we behave. It is just a question of whether we choose to be conscious of it or not. The advantage is that being aware of how we feel gives us the opportunity to exert more conscious control and maybe not react in a way that would be actually counter-productive to what we want to achieve.
- How effective have my decisions been? Looking back, how well have the decisions I have made, and implemented, turned out in practice? How much were they the product of critical reasoning and how much the product of my emotional state at the time? Self-confidence is good as it helps us to tackle apparent obstacles. However it is important to realise the borderline between self-confidence and over confidence. There is lots of evidence from research explaining how often people choose what appeals to them and then highlight the evidence and arguments that support their conclusion and ignore or attack those that do not. Do you succumb to the “answer I like” syndrome versus the objectively analysed and concluded answer? Even when it is one I don’t particularly like?
- How am I progressing towards my goals – short and long term? The logical benchmark on my personal progress is am I achieving what is important for me? Now two key questions that arise:
- Have I a clear set of personal goals or are they vague and aspirational? I was always jealous of the friends in college who had a clear idea of what they wanted to do in their careers. I needed more time to determine what my goals were to be and they have changed over time.
- Are my personal goals consistent with the work and company goals I have determined are important for me and my team? Whose agenda am I working on? Perhaps this was less important in the past with an environment of lifetime employment with the same employer. Nowadays this is more important as the concept of lifetime employment cedes into history and success means maintaining your marketability. Your personal goals provide the compass for where to invest your time.
- What is important for me? We have been slowly progressing through your introspection going a little deeper with each point. Now perhaps is a good time to bring up values. So what do I value and what is important for me? What drives me to do what I do and is it being fulfilled in what I am currently doing? There are various tools that can help in this process if I am finding it difficult. One tool in particular I have found very valuable in giving people sharp personal insight is Harrison Assessments. It helps to uncover the “Five Life Themes” – the five drivers that give me personal fulfilment. Knowing these opens the door to recognising why I feel satisfied or frustrated in different aspects of my work.
- Have I had feedback from others? Does feedback happen by accident or do I actively go out to find out what impact I am having? Without feedback I may be unaware of the impact I am having? That is fine if I am like a super tanker in the middle of the ocean sailing along and oblivious to anything but exceptionally freak waves. Not having radar working effectively is not a problem. But once I the leader/super tanker is entering a narrow straits or channel or a port then lack of radar is a distinct liability. Quite often as a leader we can plough on confident in our own approach but there is always a time when we need feedback, whether we realise it or not. For some it comes much too late when they succumb to a heart attack. I recall one of my clients who was a real gentleman in social life and the most gracious host you could ever meet. But as the business leader he could not delegate, did not develop the management team to operate as an effective leadership team, and managed all important key client relationships directly. It killed him and the consequence was that he left a vacuum that took 12 to 18 months for the company to address.
Key questions to ask yourself about feedback:
- What type of feedback have I been getting?
- Who have I been getting it from?
- Who am I not getting feedback from?
- Am I listening?
- Learning. What things am I not keeping up with that are important for my goals?
- There was a time when leaders did not need to worry much about learning as the environment was stable, fairly certain and straight forward with few surprises. Now as a leader the challenge is knowing what I need to find out about first. Knowledge is expanding exponentially and it is not possible to know everything, at least not until we are artificial intelligence enabled. It is also no longer possible to control everything as in the past. Now leaders need to be open to learning daily. My knowledge and skill that enabled me to get to where I am is unlikely to be enough to keep me there going forward unless I keep learning.
- The second big challenge is what to learn? What are the most important things for me to keep up with and what do I need to rely on others to keep track of? What do I need to learn to achieve my goals?
- What is happening in our business? What will it look like in 3 to 5 years-time and what does that mean for us now? What changes is technology bringing about and how will that impact us?
- What is happening in the political and regulatory field? A very good example of a surprise coming out of nowhere is the Global Data Protection Regulation coming into force in the European Union in May 2018. This impacts directly any business handling personal information which effectively means every business. The penalties for non-compliance are severe to astronomical depending on the scale of your business. For some, such as a good friend of mine, it means having to completely rethink and replace his business model within 12 months to maintain his business. For me it has meant having to learn a lot about IT and the vulnerabilities in our on line practices and tools as well as about legal responsibility and what compliance means for the way we will have to work in the future.
- What is happening in the core competence areas of our business? How is the field advancing and how well are we positioned to advance with it?
- How good am I at learning? What will it be critical for me to know in three years that I do not know now? How fast do I need to learn? What can I just google for a solution and what do I need to devote serous time to finding out about?
My behaviour as a leader.
How effective is the way I do things? What works well? What might I need to think about in the way I typically behave?
In order to be able to answer these questions you need to have a benchmark. Something that explains how a leader should behave. Otherwise it will be difficult to draw a useful conclusion. This is where having a set of competencies can be quite valuable. Competencies describe the ways of behaving (what we actually do) that are considered will be most effective in producing the outcomes the company needs. Now they can range in complexity from having clear standards (what is below standard, at standard and above standard behaviour) for every job in the company which has been used by some. Or they can be more general descriptors of the type of leadership that we practice to achieve our goals.
How can competencies help me? The value of leadership competencies for you as a leader is as a signpost or reference point. They provide a clear message for all on how leaders are expected to behave at all levels in the company. They also help you to assess what you are good at, so keep doing it, and what you may need to rethink or seek to modify how you do. They will help you to identify what you may need to work on looking forward.
Self-assessment is great and a good start. However having feedback from others on our behaviour as a leader is even better as it brings in additional information and evidence that we may not see ourselves. Even when we do have a good balanced view of the impact of our behaviour there are always some nuggets of insight or gems of wisdom I gain from the comments of others that can open up learning for me, if I choose to hear it.
How do I coach myself?
You can be your own best coach or your own worst coach. What does a good coach do?
- She or he asks difficult and through provoking questions. Am I asking myself the hard questions a coach asks?
- He or she brings our strengths to our attention. Am I acknowledging often enough what I am doing well? How am I maintaining my self-confidence?
- She or he facilitates us exploring options. Am I exploring all possibilities or just the one that I like doing?
- He or she facilitates us seeing things in a new or different way from a different perspective. How often do I look at my issues from another perspective and reframe them?
- She or he facilitates us identifying where we can get support. Where can I get support when I need it?
These are a lot of questions and ideas for reviewing and analysing your leadership impact and seeking to identify what is working well and what you may need to think about doing in a different way. The bottom line is that you can choose to do nothing as “I am a good leader anyway”. That may have worked in the past but it is increasingly unlikely to work in the future. Your behaviour and actions are now much more visible to a wider audience. The power of your position may carry you for a period of time but as the situation changes and evolves your impact will erode. So it is important that you proactively maintain your effectiveness as a leader.
Create some space for yourself to think. Use the guideline questions that are helpful for you. If you would like to talk through or explore some things give me a call (+32 479 281601) or an e mail firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to have a deeper self-analysis of a psychometric then we can look at what instrument may provide the insights that will be of value for you. If you would like to gather feedback in a confidential way then we have some 360° tools that are easily accessible and inexpensive. If you would like some coaching support we have an expert coach to provide the right sounding board in the language that you are most comfortable in.