I’m on the second floor in my home office searching for my wireless headphones. I’ve looked everywhere and was positive I left them on my desk charging. I did this so that I wouldn’t forget them when it was time for my workout. I’m already 10 minutes late for the gym, and I hate being late.
“Quiana!” I scream downstairs. “Have you seen my headphones?”
“Ask your sons!” My wife yells back.
My response is directed at my twin teenage sons, “Boys! Have you seen my headphones?”
One of my sons responds, “What headphones?”
This response, of course, is my first indication that he not only knows where the headphones are but likely has them. After a couple of questions back and forth, one of my sons produces the headphones from their bedroom.
“Oh, I forgot, I had them on while cutting grass.” My son responds.
After a stern reminder not to touch my belongings without asking, I snatch the headphones, checking the battery life as I head downstairs to the car. Of course, the headphones are dead, and my motivation to go to the gym follows a similar path. As a result, I turn around and head back upstairs to my office. I’ll try the gym tomorrow.
I’m a scheduled-oriented person. As my bio states, I count time and keep schedules in my head; therefore, when circumstances cause my plans to derail, I struggle to stay on task. However, I try to plan accordingly because I know this about myself. For example, I keep an extra gym bag packed if I forget something. I also give myself plenty of prep time for the unexpected to arise, so I will have time to adjust. Preplanning for the gym is just one example of being self-aware and how to mitigate the adverse effects of traits that have the potential to be counterproductive.
Leaders must know themselves to account for weaknesses and capitalize on strengths appropriately. As a leader, it can be hard to recognize the improvement areas at work. No matter how high you climb the leadership ladder, there will always be areas of improvement. Leaders are always looking for ways to improve at work, but how do you really know your weaknesses?
The key to self-improvement is to increase and approve self-awareness. In a previous blog, I’ve explored the qualities of a self-aware leader and the benefits of self-awareness. For this blog, let’s focus on how to fix improvement areas at work by improving self-awareness. Below are a few tips to help the aspiring leader recognize and fix improvement areas at work.
Know, accept, and overcome your weaknesses
Knowing your weaknesses is only one piece of the puzzle. Many leaders recognize their weaknesses but refuse to accept them and therefore can never overcome them. Leaders either believe that their shortcomings are only temporary or feel they have a minimal impact on improvement areas at work.
I am a Warrant Officer in the U.S. Army. A prerequisite for becoming a Warrant Officer is completing the Warrant Officer Candidate School (WOCS). This school helps prepare Warrant Officers for roles as technical leaders and advisors. During my time at WOCS, the school presented me with several tools to increase my self-awareness and assess my strengths and weaknesses.
Among these tools was a version of the Meyer Briggs and numerous peer assessments. As a result of these assessments, I quickly determined I was process-oriented, and one of the weaknesses associated with this trait was rigidness and inflexibility. After learning about this weakness, I didn’t actively work to correct it.
Unfortunately, it took some years before I began taking steps to overcome this weakness. It wasn’t until I self-assessed and evaluated feedback from subordinates, peers, and leaders that I took the appropriate steps toward change. Are you interested in a free version of the self-assessment tool I used? Check out the 16 personalities assessment. Also, check out my top three reads to increase your knowledge of yourself.
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Be open to constructive criticism
Accepting criticism is easier said than done, especially if the delivery of the criticism is less than professional. As a leader, you will make mistakes, and in turn, you will likely receive some level of criticism because of those mistakes. As leaders, we need to use this criticism to fix improvement areas at work.
Great leaders are usually passionate about performing their duties, and therefore criticism, even professional criticism, can be challenging to accept. However, try to be objective and take a hard look at criticism. Often you will discover that there may be some truth and some tidbits to help you become a better leader. Some key questions to ask yourself are:
- Is this the first time that I’ve received this critique
- How would I respond if the tables were turned?
- Can I attribute this criticism to a previously identified weakness from a self-assessment?
Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback
Great leaders have adequately mastered utilizing their resources to run an efficient and successful organization. However, we seldom employ the same tactics when looking inward. Leaders have a hard time asking for feedback or helping them self-assess and fix improvement areas at work.
In a recent article, David Sturt and Todd Nordstrom ascertain that leaders fear looking weak, hence avoiding seeking genuine feedback to correct weaknesses. This fear often comes into play when asking for input from team members.
Asking for genuine feedback and help in areas that you cannot tackle on your own is a strength, not a weakness. However, you must be open and able to view feedback and suggestions objectively. As leaders, regular self-assessments and adjustments based on feedback and even criticism will ultimately result in better performance and more success across the organization.
Are you unsure of how to be open to criticism and use feedback to improve areas at work? Don’t worry. Below are my top reads for dealing with constructive criticism and asking for feedback:
You may have some stronger skills than others, but everyone has room for growth. When you identify your improvement areas, you can start to work on them. Self-awareness and learning from feedback and constructive criticism can help improve areas at work. I would be interested in techniques to fix improvement areas at work, so feel free to leave a comment below.