Self Awareness and Building Teams

by Zach Montroy, SPHR

In my work helping transform the way leaders lead and teams operate together, I see a few patterns that continue to reappear. Though healthy leadership includes a variety of hallmarks, it’s apparent that thriving teams are led by individuals who know themselves well. Self-awareness is always key to a team that functions well together. 

Good leaders understand that their teams are equipped with a broad and diverse spectrum of abilities, preferences, and desires. Knowing and understanding these and how they interact with each other, plus understanding yourself, is what sets a great leader apart.

When I begin work with organizations, I often ask them to list qualities of exceptional leadership. The data bears out the truth – a handful of attributes come up again and again. 

Common Perceptions of Good Leadership

Exceptional leaders pursue vision, think strategically, marshal resources, ensure execution, are others focused, drive culture, cultivate talent, are inwardly sound, unleash motivation, and communicate effectively. 

These are all good, positive traits. However, only two of these attributes make up 75% of a leader’s effectiveness. Only two of these attributes refer to who a leader is and not what they do. When I work with groups of individuals in training sessions, I often ask them to guess which two traits these might be.

These two attributes are others-focused and inwardly sound. Are they the ones you would choose? They’re the two that most relate to the idea of self-awareness, which is knowing your own strengths and weaknesses and how they impact those around you. 

What Happens Without Self-Awareness

As a young adult, I got to see firsthand what happens when a leader is advanced into a role without the proper self-awareness or training. I was a young employee at KB Toys, and was abruptly promoted when the regional manager decided I’d been very helpful to her on a store visit. My “preparation” for the position consisted of a stack of VHS tapes from the 1970’s on what constitutes good leadership. Once I’d been “trained,” I was asked to fire the entire staff of the store I was assigned to take over. 

The advice I received was this: “Good leaders are confident; they don’t take questions, and they tell everyone what to do.” I certainly wasn’t prepared to lead others given knowledge of myself and understanding of my team! In a later position in a separate company, I was told that, as a leader, “You should always sit in a higher chair than everyone else so everyone can tell that you’re the boss and you’re in charge.” It’s certainly not what I would call good guidance! 

Since those unfortunate examples, I’ve had some amazing mentors who helped me see what exceptional, transformational leadership can and should look like.

Leading by Valuing a Diverse Group

We’ve all heard the Golden Rule – treat others how we want to be treated. Great leaders flip this idea on its head – instead, treat others the way they want to be treated. 

The work of leading at a high level requires a lot of us. It requires me to help leaders move toward courageous growth. It involves the micro values of courage, challenge, and connection. It requires an understanding of your own strengths and shadow sides, and those of the members of your team. I often speak of these characteristics as rooms in a house – where will each member of your team feel most comfortable?

As you lead, it’s imperative that you understand what makes each member of your team different and what makes them stand out. How will each individual best be used within the group?

Tools for Use

In my work, I use a variety of personality tools and assessments to help leaders and teams understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses. One of my favorites is the Working Genius Assessment.  This paradigm helps determine which individuals on your team are aligned (and where they differ) when it comes to execution, risk, and innovation. Understanding the diverse array of skill sets and strengths within yourself and your team is essential to leading well. 

Reach Out 

If you’re looking for a more targeted approach or additional guidance for yourself or your team, our work helps executive leaders and organizations improve self-awareness, collective understanding, and productivity. We’d love to talk with you and hear about your unique needs and goals. Direct message me to set up a time to talk

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