"To See Ourselves as Others See Us"
Two hundred years ago, when poet Robert Burns penned the words about seeing ourselves through the eyes of others in his famous poem (To a Louse, 1786), he could not have known that they would apply so fittingly today. Today's economy might be very different if only the leaders running some of our most respected organisations were willing to view themselves through the lenses others use.
In this new year, we must deal with an uncertain national and global economy. It is a good time for us to reassess our priorities and goals. Instead of looking in the mirror and reflecting on whether the hair is combed or the jacket fits well, a wise leader will look beyond the outer image, go beneath the surface. He will evaluate and look inside his true self.
Viewing our deeper selves and honestly recognising what we see is a difficult task. Getting to the truth will require the help of others, perhaps many others, since some people know only one side of us. Deciding what we are going to do with the information we get back will require help, too, because it is easier to make no change. If you are tempted to think that way, remember: change is the only way to grow.
So, facing two paths – CHANGE and NO CHANGE – let's say we opt for the first one. What will keep us on the straight and narrow path? Here is a plan that can enable change:
• Seek feedback. The only way to know how others view us is to ask. Getting their input can tell us where we are now, which is an important step in getting where we want to go. Honest feedback illuminates our current state and provides a foundation for our betterment. In addition to seeking out trusted friends and mentors, it is helpful to learn from the people you interact with on a regular basis. How do you treat those who can neither hurt nor harm you, like the clerk at the convenience store? The answer could be revealing.
• Be courageous. Whether or not you believe in making resolutions for the new year is immaterial. If you discover that you behave in ways that make it difficult for others to do their jobs, you have a responsibility to change your behaviour. The alteration might be as simple as communicating in person instead of through memos. Or it might be more complex, requiring you to restructure the way you and your management team do business. Remember that embarking on such a course implies to those who take the journey with you that you are serious about change. To request feedback is not easy, but to seek it and then do nothing invites cynicism.
• Do not assume anything about your employees. Know them better than they know themselves. New tools are available to tell you exactly who is working for you – their competencies, their weaknesses and their goals. Do not decide that you can apply the same management style to everyone and get the same results. A multitude of different faces greet you when you walk into the department. They are likely to include four different generations, both genders, and different races and ethnicities. In the global marketplace, you will find variations even within identifiable groups. It is imperative that you learn what skills your employees have, the skills they are capable of acquiring and what it takes to keep them motivated.
• Stay focused. Pledges you make to yourself come with a tempting reality: If you made them, you can also unmake them. The consequences of straying off-course can be daunting, however. One of the biggest is inertia that permeates your organisation. If you start something you don't finish, who will keep others focused? Create an accountability system. Make a list and read it at regular intervals. Or go a step further and give your list to a trusted peer to review with you regularly. Think of your colleague's reminders as a pep talk.
• Recheck midyear. In today's fast-changing world, a goal that's only a few months old can quickly become obsolete. Examining each item on your list after six months will let you know whether you need to stay the course or readjust. Of course, you may have seen some flaws in your accountability plan and made changes accordingly. Remember that the creation of new goals does not have to wait for a new year. You can set goals anytime. Build a new list as necessary depending on what has happened inside and outside the organisation.
• Manage frustration. Realists know there are some things they will never change. Smart leaders recognise obstacles and adapt their responses when difficult changes are beyond their control. Keep this in mind whenever you feel caught between harsh choices.
• Know your limits. Sometimes achievers forget that no one is perfect. Just as an artist is never done with his creation, each of us is still a student of life and a creation in progress. This is not permission to remain static, but we don't need to consider ourselves failures, either. Take the middle path: Admit your mistakes and resolve to do better.
As we commit to improve our leadership behavior in the coming year, we must remember that discomfort accompanies important change. But if we do nothing, the return will also be nothing.
In today's fast-changing world, a goal that's only a few months old can quickly become obsolete. Examining each item on your list after six months will let you know whether you need to stay the course or readjust. Of course, you may have seen some flaws in your accountability plan and made changes accordingly. Remember that the creation of new goals does not have to wait for a new year. You can set goals anytime. Build a new list as necessary depending on what has happened inside and outside the organisation.
FROM JIM SIRBASKU’S DESK