Julie Jansen's Blog

Julie Jansen

Managers, know thyself

Most people who complain about their jobs often are complaining about their manager. “My boss makes me so nervous: he questions everything, treats people like they’re incompetent, is really negative, and never listens to what I’m saying.” Sound familiar? It is to me – it’s a common lament, and though often followed by guilt over he or she “being a nice person,” these employees, who typically are hungry for attention, feedback, and responsibility, instead put their creative energy into a job search.

If you’re a manager, you’re also a role model. You may not realize how you set the tone in your office or workplace, however employees are on the receiving end of your idiosyncrasies, temper and impatience, as well as your gratitude, positive reinforcement and respect.

Your direct reports are looking to you for guidance and direction, and for support and encouragement. You can’t expect an employee to take risks or be creative if they don’t think their manager approves of their effort, and has their back. They also may mirror the way you treat them in their own interaction with associates and customers, good and bad.

Raising your own bar
Unlike friends or significant others who will be more honest with you, your direct reports and peers aren’t going to tell you what they think of your management skills, since they’re afraid of making you angry or of losing their jobs.

Without that candor you’ve probably lost respect and may be fostering detachment. That leads to reduced productivity, quality, and service, poor morale, and increased absenteeism. Especially in a healthy job market, it feeds turnover.

If you haven’t already, it’s time to take a hard, critical look at yourself. Increasing self-awareness isn’t easy though, and often requires several steps. Here are three self-awareness tips to consider:

First, you must seek feedback, typically by asking the people you work with how you can improve your own performance. Also, there’s enormous benefit in asking your employees to provide honest feedback. It takes courage, but if you’re willing to listen and aren’t threatening or defensive, it can greatly enhance your relationships.

Second, ask for a coach. Every manager can benefit from a seasoned, objective coach who has nothing to lose by giving you direct, honest feedback and offering constructive steps for improving your skills. Good coaches build on your strengths, and help you see your weaknesses in a clearer light. They devise action steps that help improve your ability to listen openly, provide positive feedback, and have difficult conversations with others as required. They also talk with you about body language and communication styles, and offer developmental tools to assist you and your team.

Third, become more self-aware. This may be the most difficult of these three items, and doesn’t happen overnight. Most people have to learn methods for self-regulating their behaviors, but first, they have to recognize these behaviors, and be willing to work at healthy, productive adjustments. For example, if you are impatient, how do you learn to take a breath before you speak or act, and think in advance about how your reaction will be received by others? Even honest feedback, if delivered in an aggressive, hostile manner, will cause more damage than good.

As a manager, it’s critical that you become aware of how everything you do or say is being watched, emulated, or stored away by those you work with or supervise. You need to be able to gain perspective, understand how your employees are seeing you, and truly appreciate the significance of large – as well as small – actions.

You can start by accepting what you can do better, and through setting a course for enlightened self-improvement. By paying attention to what you do and say and how you act, the return on investment – for you personally, and for those you supervise – will be significant and measureable.