It’s not you, it’s me – using self awareness to explore people management

Last year, Klick* had a goal: develop a comprehensive program to support and build exceptional people managers. As my team and I started to outline the new program, much of the content was immediately obvious – understanding social dynamics and creating better 1:1s, exploring how critical ‘radical candor‘ is to developing trusting relationships, giving delegation the time and effort it deserves in order to be effective, etc.

Our biggest struggle (understatement – it was huge) was in trying to frame and launch the very first workshop of the new series. Should we dive in to the nitty gritty ins and outs of people management and offer practical solutions to learners right away? Take time to explore Klick’s vision, mission, and values and see how they align to our approach to people management? Unpack what it actually means to be a people manager?

While each option had its own strengths, none of them felt quite right. We went back to the drawing board to try to answer our favourite question – ‘why?’ Why are we offering this new program? Finally, it came down to something our President, Lori Grant, often says: ‘what problem are we trying to solve?’

Finding the ‘I’ in ‘team’

The more we thought about it, the more we realized that before we can expect people to learn how to help others, the journey ultimately starts with us, from within. Much like an oxygen mask on an airplane – our intense desire may be to help those around us (i.e. direct reports and colleagues), but what good are we to others if we neglect ourselves?

It was clear that self awareness and self management, as the cornerstones of emotional intelligence, should be the focus of the very first workshop in this new program. Using extensive research about emotional intelligence and its impact on leadership, we developed a-ha inducing activities and self reflection exercises all designed to help grow self awareness. For example, when introducing the concept of self awareness, we designed an activity that would approach it objectively. Psychology research behind the Lake Wobegon effect (or illusory superiority) tells us that most people overestimate their abilities and believe their achievements are stronger than the average person, therefore making it harder to assess one’s own self awareness. We created four fictional people and asked learners to look for indications of that person’s self awareness. This opened up thoughtful discussion and self realization of examples when they had acted similarly and the consequences that may have unfolded. By looking at self awareness objectively, it allowed participants to draw real life comparisons to their experiences and how they could adapt and behave differently next time.

Reflecting on Emotional Awareness – Or The Power Of A Banana

What’s been incredibly interesting and reassuring at the same time is that although the content seems simple on the surface, it’s resonated deeply with our participants. For example, one of the best ways to build self awareness is to recognize when you are feeling something. This may seem obvious, but Klicksters realized how infrequently they were taking the time to stop and think ‘how am I ACTUALLY feeling right now? How was my morning? Have I eaten? What was drop off with my kids like this morning? Who is my first meeting with? How do I feel about that person? How much sleep did I get last night?’ etc.

And if people ARE reflecting, how often is the answer to the question ‘how am I doing right now?’ a default words like ‘Good. Fine. Tired. Stressed.’ etc. Research shows us that labelling an emotion is trickier than we think. In fact, only 36% of us can accurately articulate how we are feeling at any given time – often we default to our 4 or 5 go-to descriptors. The harder it is to accurately identify how we’re feeling, the harder it is to regulate and manage those emotions. Think about the difference between ‘anxious,’ ‘nervous,’ ‘uneasy,’ ‘deflated,’ or ‘hungry’. Often we choose a blanket word, like ‘stressed,’ or ‘tired,’ when feeling those emotions, which means we’re not managing them in the way they properly deserve. Sometimes you just need a banana!

Transforming Relationships Through Transforming Self

The feedback we’ve received from 92 of our participants so far has been phenomenal!. 96% of respondents enjoyed the workshop and 100% believe they can confidently apply the information learned in this session. This is a beautiful thing. Stronger self awareness and self management at Klick will have a transformational effect on relationships, productivity, efficiency, and empathy. We are well on our way to fulfilling our mission of inspiring exceptional people leadership. Next stop: building stronger, trusting relationships – with other people.

*Sensei Labs is in the Klick family of companies.

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Lindsay Wright

Lindsay is driven by a desire to help people excel in their work and be their best selves in their jobs. Whether it’s a workshop, a coaching session, or just a coffee, Lindsay works with learners to create the most effective opportunity for growth.

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