Self-leadership is a skill set for all employees in an organization so they are able to develop, manage and direct themselves to perform effectively both in professional and personal life. The application of this skill set is possible when the organization’s goals and values are in sync with all its employees at an individual level.
While employees themselves need to work on both behavioral and cognitive strategies to work on their self-leadership, management can also help to boost this skill set in a few ways.
Four of the most effective ways to boost self-leadership are:
Be ready to have self-leaders
Before management starts their planning of embedding self-leadership amongst their employees, it’s advisable to begin by observing and assessing their organisational culture. This guides them to decide about their readiness for change, as well as directs them to explore and understand the processes and benefits of self-leaders in organizations.
Once the general norms and regulations are established in the organization, management can shift their focus on self-leadership as a skill set during the recruitment. The most common way to build self-leaders is through recruiting individuals that have a good predisposition for this skill set.
Encourage and educate
Research shows that recognition can help employees achieve a specific target. Hence, encouraging employees with small gift gestures and awards can help in building their self-leadership.
Oftentimes developing self-leadership requires education or training with emphasis on learning specific technical and soft skills to further boost self-leadership. To do this, managers can work as coaches themselves or the organizations can hire professional coaches to help employees learn these skills through various workshops.
For new employees, management should also assess and together plan about how they could do their work most efficiently, and which areas they could improve upon at the moment. Encouraging them at the beginning further helps them to make better and positive changes amongst themselves and to bring up concerns sincerely and honestly.
Trust your employee’s self-leadership
After training and encouragement, trusting your employee’s self-leadership becomes necessary as employees tend to work along with opportunities in order to prove themselves. Bouncing them around from one task to another without clear reasoning can negatively affect your employees’ self-leading behaviours. Hence, management can assign authentic authority within set limits to employees over their own work, such as setting deadlines for their projects while keeping in mind the required set of projects to be achieved within the following months.
And if the manager thinks that an employee is confused and is slightly off the desired path, instead of telling them what to do or where to move ahead, they can simply ask them leading questions so they can begin to steer themselves in the right direction.
Establishing a common leadership language
Managers who themselves have leadership skills at times face difficulty in communicating and transferring these leadership skills or mentoring their subordinates. Even research shows that 93% of managers feel that they need training on how to coach their employees. Hence, it’s important to first give training to managers to further teach them about how to effectively build a common leadership language which helps them to make effective communication.
To start working on this common leadership language, manager should focus on:
Identifying the strengths and weaknesses of their employees.
What competencies they need to work on to become a self-leader.
How to convey the importance of those competencies to the employees.
How to teach these competencies to the employees.
What could be the measures to evaluate the progress of the employees.
Self-leadership programs boost employee performance and innovation in an organization and to achieve this they need both managers and management support.
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“Have you ever found yourself in front of a task at work that requires more than the normal amount of motivation from you? This process of identifying such desired experiences, and consciously pursuing them is known as Self-Leadership.”
Self-leaders at an organization have become an integral and crucial part for it to function in a healthy way. Two of the most important reasons are:
The traditional “leaders” won’t actually be truly successful at leading or managing others until they can effectively self-regulate themselves at the workplace.
Self-leadership provides 5 benefits for employees and their organizations. These benefits are:
Building greater insight into an employee’s behavior at work.
Developing the personal drive and commitment within an employee to successfully execute the vision of the organization.
Developing accountability within an employee.
Building proactiveness amongst the workforce.
Help employees to use their time more effectively.
Research also pointed out that 83% of organizations acknowledged that it’s important for them to develop leaders at all levels and 53% of organization’s top priority is filling the leadership gap that would be created by the new millennial workforce.
Furthermore, self-leadership is essential to build clarity for followership as well. One of Ford Motor Co. executives stated that, “We started participative management, but we didn’t know what that meant for the subordinate!” What are the responsibilities of the follower? How does he or she behave in a participative management situation?”
Develop Self-leadership at workplace: 2 Strategies for employees
Self-leadership has shown to use specific sets of behavioral and cognitive strategies to determine an employee’s performance outcome. Hence, working on these strategies can help boost self-leadership within an employee.
These strategies are designed to help employees organize and direct their work life more effectively. These include:
Self-observation is a process of closely observing one’s own behaviors to understand why they act the way they do within different situations. This is helpful for employees to assess and decide which of their behaviors require improvements. For example, an employee who’s facing a productivity issue can make informal notes on documenting instances or distractions that could be the potential causes for the said behaviour.
Another effective method to build self-observation is through building a habit of journal writing, about your thoughts and feelings every day. As you make more and more entries, try to be specific about the following questions:
What positive and negative events happened today?
What did you learn today?
How can you better manage your work behavior in the future?
Lastly, doing rehearsals or practicing these desired behaviors at the workplace can help avoid expensive blunders at the organization.
Setting and optimizing goals
To increase your productivity on any task, setting goals helps in bringing out the best within you while working. You can use the SMARTER goals method where the goal must be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, timely, evaluate and readjustable.
Therefore, if an employee is assigned to work on an individual project, then the employee should be clear about the project to begin with, which involves thinking about if it’s actually relevant and attainable or not, then set up a deadline to further motivate oneself for work and give him enough time for possible readjustments after feedback, and at last, think about how that work will be evaluated.
A sense of responsibility and/or accountability is important to understand the impact that our actions might have on others. To develop responsibility within the workplace an employee can:
Recognize their own mistakes and open themselves for discussions with others.
Involve others in the process of making goals for projects.
Share their deadlines and ideas with others.
Provide updates on progress.
Cognitive-focussed strategies aid in developing effective thinking that helps to identify room for growth as well as for motivating self especially during stressful circumstances. These include:
Identifying strengths and weaknesses
Identifying strengths and weaknesses within yourself, can help you to use these strengths to gain a competitive edge for yourself as well as address your weaknesses to work on them before they cost a setback.
To identify them try to regularly ask yourself, “what are some of your strengths and weaknesses?” and “What can you do today to work on them?”. Try to think about a few examples of your strengths and weaknesses to gain more clarity. After a while, start taking feedback from others as well to work on certain weaknesses of yourself that you might’ve missed.
Furthermore, try to establish a connection between values and self-leadership by asking yourself, What are your core values? Do you also show these values in your self-leadership, if not then, How can you do it?
Building natural rewards into tasks
Redesigning your setting and nature of the work can help to increase the level of natural rewards at your job. These rewards result from activities that make you feel a sense of competence, self-control and purpose.
For example, an employee might try to create a work environment that helps him to perform better by playing his favorite music or adding personal touches such as a family picture on his desk. Furthermore, they can even shift their mind to things they most like about the job such as working outdoors or interacting with co-workers.
Build effective thought-pattern
Effective thought-pattern means establishing constructive and functional habits or patterns in your thinking that positively affect your performance. These habits include:
Searching for opportunities rather than obstacles when faced challenges (for example, focusing on the learning after meeting a failure)
Imagining yourself achieving your goal whenever you feel a lack of motivation
Making a habit of repeating positive self-affirmations such as “I am going to focus on solutions to get through any hard situation”, “I will be OK” and “If I keep working on anything, I will keep improving myself in it”.
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Diplomacy at work is often associated with people pleasing behaviour, but on the contrary, it is more of a daily life skill which helps us to make a better assessment of situations as well as take cautious decisions. To put in another way, “Diplomacy is an art of coping with matters in a careful and tactful way.
It’s a soft skill which all professionals are advised to master, as it is suggested to help to improve workplace environments by:
Maintaining good relationships
Avoiding conflicts and clashes
Preventing emotional outbursts
Building objective viewpoints in situations to make better logical decisions.
Furthermore, it also helps to communicate sensitive information and communicate difficult feedback to the seniors without impacting the relationship.
Diplomacy is strongly influenced by culture, such as, one culture prefers open feedback whereas it can be considered as rude in the other. Henceforth it is suggested that the employees be aware about their organisations culture, especially those who transferred to different cities and countries for work.
How to build this skill?
The first step to build diplomacy is to understand and define your expectations clearly. Start by asking yourself:
What do you seek from this situation?
What needs to be done in order to achieve the desired goal?
It is also important to consider everyone else’s perspective while moving towards your goal. Oftentimes, finding a balance between what everyone involved wants turns out to be crucial for diplomacy. For situations where you have to deal with a difficult employee, taking help or mediation from a higher authority is suggested to be a good diplomatic approach.
There are 3 simple rules of diplomacy influenced by Dale Carnegie’s book “How to win friends and influence people”. These are:
As Carnegie said in his book,
“Criticism is futile because it puts a person on the defensive and usually makes him strive to justify himself. Criticism is dangerous, because it wounds a person’s precious pride, hurts his sense of importance, and arouses resentment.”
But this does not mean that you should not point out the mistakes of others.
As workplaces include assessing and evaluating the work of others, the key here is to learn how to give constructive feedback including areas of improvement in the present and future rather than just criticizing what went wrong. Therefore, it’s important that in each feedback given, you are first of all, gathering all the relevant information, and secondly, to bring a solution-focused approach in your feedback.
Similarly, the role of words and body language becomes crucial in every communication. For example, you should avoid aggressive language such as, “You have to..”, “I don’t care…”, “Never..” and choose positive language such as, “It would be awesome if…”, “I think it might be better if…”. And try to use positive body language with good eye contact and occasional smiles, while avoiding negative cues, such as rolling your eyes and clenching your fist.
Learn to appreciate more
Think about the last time you appreciated someone’s work at your workplace and its impact on others as well as how you felt when someone appreciated your work.
Appreciation has proved to be effective for both employees to build a sense of community as well as organizations to retain their employees. And it just takes a simple “thank you” to communicate your admiration for their work. However, it should not be misunderstood as flattery, appreciation is a genuine and honest effort put in to recognize the work of others. What distinguishes a tactful employee from an untactful employee is that they not only appreciate the successes of other employees but also appreciate their own hard work even if it results in failure.
Hence, try to develop a habit of appreciating others, you can do this by:
Appreciating all members of a project personally or through e-mail after its completion.
And also recognize the personal accomplishments of others as well.
Find common ground
Finding common ground is not only an effective method to deal with conflicts, but it also helps to understand the perspective of others. Hence, if you are in a disagreement with your coworker, then introspect on the following questions:
What could be the one thing similar amongst the two of you?
What one thing do you both agree on? Now, can you find more such things you both agree on?
What do you think are some basic needs and/or desires of the other person?
Is there any communication barrier between the two of you? How can you overcome that barrier?
Additional Strategies to boost diplomacy at work:
Learn to manipulate the environment
A good diplomat knows when it is best to talk about a certain issue. For example, if a manager has to let go of one of his employees, then choosing a time that does not impact any current and future projects is required, along with being considerate about a notice period for the employee to find another job. Similarly, the role of a setting is also important as when two employees are in conflict, then picking out a neutral or informal setting can help in de-escalating the situation.
Moreover, using a storytelling method to convey your ideas is effective as it makes it easier for others to visualize and relate to. For example, Instead of saying, “Social media marketing is this much effective” say, “I was watching this funny video on social media where this and that happened and later I realized it cleverly showed me a few advertisements in-between”.
Master emotional intelligence
Our negative emotions can result in conflicts and miscommunication, therefore, it’s important to promote emotional intelligenceat work. It’s usually better to take a preventive approach especially in cases of emotional behaviours, as finding triggers of such behaviours is more apt than managing an aftermath of the emotional outburst. Additionally, this further helps to deal with issues at their root level, thus cycling back to the prevention of the said behaviour in future.
Try to ask yourself, as well as your employees, the following questions to investigate triggers:
What are a few common triggers that evoke strong emotion within you?
Who are a few people that usually invoke these emotions within you?
In what circumstances do you usually lose your control of emotions?
Furthermore, You can use the ten-second rule to gain composure, you can even use mindfulness exercises to control your breathing and reassess the situation. Taking deep breaths while counting 1 to 10 is one of the most effective strategies for that.
Balance openness with assertiveness
It’s great to be tactful, however, you also need to convey your message in an assertive way to ensure that your own rights are respected as much as you are respecting others.
To learn assertiveness you can try using the four key components of being assertive, which are, the situation, the feeling, the consequences, and the request. Start with explaining the situation along with how that’s making you feel, then explain the consequence of the situation, and at last, add in your request.
For example, The situation is that because of you there is a two day delay in the delivering of a report. Then to make your coworkers prioritize this project you can say, “I know I am two days late for submitting this report and I am grateful for our hard work but because of the delay, I am feeling frustrated, annoyed, and embarrassed. The consequence is that our head manager is doubting our competency and my request from you is that we make this report our priority now and get this done by today itself”.
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Practice: Think about a situation where you need to deflect office gossip and comment on how you can do it with diplomacy.
Diplomacy is all about managing your interests while keeping positive interactions at the workplace. It surely takes time to build, but it is a force that can boost your career.