How to catch yourself red-handed failing self-leadership


shutterstock_36182920_webSo much has been said and written about leadership, leaders and their (expected) performance. In this blog I’m not specifically referring to executives, but to anyone in the workforce; managers, employees and self-employed professionals. What about them? Well, how do they manage their self-leadership? Nowadays we have to live up to fairly high standards. Are they that high? Let’s keep that open for discussion. I think we experience them high level, when in fact they are just different due to the continuous change and the fast moving technology. Agility is something a lot of people have a hard time dealing with, so they are tempted to take the easy road. People have the tendency to constantly demand and forget that performing is what they are hired for from the start. Since when are accountability and performance optional? Why do we accept neglectful behaviour from ourselves to begin with?

Self-leadership is having a developed sense of who you are, what you can do, where you are going coupled with the ability to influence your communication, emotions and behaviours on the way to getting there.” (Bryant & Kazan 2012)

For a lot of people it seems to be difficult to find the right work and life balance. But that should not be a reason for employees to be inclined to repeatedly demand their alleged rights without having any focus on their duties. Home working and flexible hours for example; logical consequences of the technological changes our work environment has been going through. Aspects that can elevate productivity, but only practicable to people with the right mind-set. These facilities are not rights, not a permit for anarchy, but these are solutions that can make someone perform better. Although it can help you balance work and private life, these facilities are in the first place for the productivity purposes of the organisation or client. To be effective, it requires loyalty towards the organisation. Employers pay for commitment, not for attendance.

Are you regularly demanding stuff from your employer without focussing about your duties and performance? Than you just caught yourself red-handed having the wrong mind-set!
One of the required conditions to find the balance is the right mindset that defines how you fulfil your job, how you perform at work and how you contribute to the result of the organisation.

The necessity to follow and listen

Follow the leader 2.0. For explanatory purposes let’s to continue with the example of home working. Nothing wrong with that, great technology created these possibilities. But when you choose to make use of this facility, you automatically agree on the fact that your employer sets the output targets and results. This means it is crucial that no matter what your job title is, company goals come first, not money and career. Especially in management roles this is where loyalty often goes south, individual profits blur the mind-set. Following and listening is not about blindly obeying, it is about working together towards the same company goals, taking accountability for your personal input and output, while at the same time acknowledging your capabilities and boundaries. An important part of self-leadership.

When you buy a sandwich with roast beef for ten euros, you expect a generously filled sandwich, not just a thin slice of meat. So why should your boss treat you differently?

Of course, there can always be a reason for not being able to perform. It is up to the employee to indicate what he needs. The employer and employee share the responsibility to make sure optimal performance can be realised. Although I think education and coaching is highly overrated in the point I’m trying to make here, if this is the employee’s request, a manager should offer this. And sometimes it does work miracles, because it seems to have the side effect of motivating a person to make that extra mile. Unfortunately, putting in more effort seems to be applicable for the greater part of the cases. Many people are much too easy on themselves. Self-reflection can be confronting, but is mostly a real eye-opener. Therefore managers should warn them on their poor achievements in an early stage, so they have the opportunity to reflect and improve.

What if nothing changes after addressing the issues? Well, the worst case scenario could be to find another job that suits someone better. This sounds harsh, but it is mostly a relief for both parties. A not functioning employee can be a time consuming and expensive frustration to an entrepreneur, but going to your work every day without feeling any satisfaction and ambition can be a suffering for an employee too.

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It’s impossible to lead others until you lead yourself

If you want people to follow, listen and be loyal to the organisation, what does this mean for leaders? Let me ask you a different question: how were you planning to lead others you aren’t able to perfectly lead yourself? You not only need to know what your core-values, mission, vision means for your organisational strategy, you need to know what it means for you as a leader. Besides that, ask yourself this: can I explain these statements to others in a way that they are able to translate it to their own work and responsibilities. Do my employees understand what is expected from them after my clarification?

Well, do they?

If you are convinced there is full clarity within your organisation or department, it is crucial to steer on performance. Do not only measure this by output, but also look at the unsolicited contributions people introduce. A lot of companies pay bonuses for innovative ideas. Why? Isn’t that an unwritten part of someone’s job description? Giving everything you are capable of should be driven by the fact that within a company you all work towards the same goals, the organisational goals. Remove the suggestion box. If you have employees that need this to come up with new improvements and disruptive stuff, it means they are not truly dedicated and loyal. This can partially be an cultural issue, because people are easily influenced by behaviour around them. However, it is mostly an issue of self-reflection and self-leadership.

What was first, the egg or the chicken? Exactly. So take responsibility, regardless your role or job title.

Arjen van Berkum is columnist, motivator, bon vivant, innovation fan and visiting lecturer at Delft University of Technology (TU Delft). He is founder and Managing Director of Betula Services. At Betula Services they believe in co-creating the best possible value chain. They have the answer to complex issues surrounding Resource Management, driven by innovation, leadership, HR processes and performance management. By making you successful Betula Services gradually phases themselves out - the result of co-creation.

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