Motivating others is one of the most critical jobs in any organization. While every leader has their management style, ingrained habits could be derailing their effectiveness, say Doug Lennick and Chuck Wachendorfer, authors of Don’t Wait for Someone Else to Fix It: 8 Essentials to Enhance Your Leadership Impact at Work, Home, and Anywhere Else That Needs You.

“Most of us are really gifted at seeing what’s wrong with everything and everybody else,” says Lennick. “We’re pointing fingers and start with blame. I’ll blame you, and I want you to fix whatever it is.”

Leaders often think, “If my people were better, we’ll be fine,” adds Wachendorfer. “But it really begins with aiming to be your ideal self and knowing who my ideal self should be,” he says.

Instead of waiting for others to change, consider if you’re guilty of any of these four habits that could hinder your team’s results.

Being Emotionally Reflexive

The word “emotion” comes from the Latin word “Modus” or “motion,” says Lennick. “Emotions are feelings in motion,” he says. “Emotions stimulate action, but they don’t cause action.”

For example, if someone says, “I was so angry, I had to hit him,” it would suggest that anger caused the hitting. Between anger and hitting, however, is an opportunity for choice. Go from being emotionally reflexive to being emotionally reflective, says Wachendorfer.

“We’re hardwired to be emotional first and logical second,” he says. “Emotions sacrifice accuracy for speed. They want us to respond very quickly. The worst time to make any important decision is when you’re emotional. If you don’t pay attention to yourself before making a decision, your decision-making behavior is most at risk.”

Not Defining Your Ideal Self

Making the best reflective choices requires knowing your ideal self. People often say they’re values-oriented, but it leads to the question, what are your values? It can get fuzzy, says Wachendorfer.

“When people don’t know what their values are, they’ll say things like family, integrity, or honesty,” he explains. “If I aim to be my ideal self, I ought to know who that is.”

Our values are personal; they’re shaped by who we once were, who we are, where we were born, how old we are, our family experiences, our gender, our race, and our religious background. Take time to determine what is really important to you.

“How often am I that person? Could I be that person more often?” asks Wachendorfer. “For many leaders, it begins by looking in the mirror and really knowing who you are, and how that stacks up against who you ideally would like to be.”

Lacking Self-awareness

Living by your values requires self-awareness, yet many leaders aren’t practicing this foundational tool. Lennick and Wachendorfer suggest playing the “freeze game,” stopping yourself throughout the day and paying attention to who you are in the moment.

“Say to yourself, ‘freeze,’” says Lennick. “At that moment, record in your mind or on a piece of paper [the answers to], ‘What am I thinking right now? How am I feeling emotionally, right now? And what am I doing right now?’ Then compare that to your ideal self. Am I who I am really?”

Every behavior pattern you have worked for you at some point, but it may not work for you now. “As we get older, our lives change and some of those patterns stop working and hold us back,” says Lennick.

Practicing self-awareness can help you question and understand where behavior patterns come from. Then, you can decide whether to continue it or make different choices. For example, one of Lennick and Wachendorfer’s clients worked 12-hour days and then went home to care for her husband and two adult children. She was miserable.

“We noticed this pattern of sacrificing her own needs to help other people,” says Wachendorfer. “Generally, that can be a good thing. But if you do it all the time, it’s at your own expense. We asked her, ‘Where did you learn that your needs didn’t matter?”

Without hesitation, she said she had been raised by a single mom who was diagnosed with cancer when she was seven years old. She cared for her mom until she died four years later. “That was a pattern she needed to survive,” says Wachendorfer. “She continued that pattern and well into her 50s. Behavioral changes start with noticing that self-awareness.”

Not Having Self-empathy

Empathy is essential as a leader. You must recognize how someone feels to take advantage of an opportunity to help them get unstuck.

“Empathy is not sympathy,” says Wachendorfer. “Empathy is ‘I recognize how you’re feeling.’ Sympathy is ‘I feel what you’re feeling.’ If I don’t recognize how you’re feeling, I miss an opportunity to help you get unstuck.”

However, empathy begins at home. “If I don’t pay attention to how I’m feeling, I’m probably not going to pay attention to how you’re feeling,” says Lennick. “This can be a problem for overachievers. Compassion begins with me taking care of myself. If I pay attention to how I’m feeling, I’m probably going to do a better job of paying attention to how you’re feeling.”

We all want to be good at being ourselves. Managers can remain true to their personalities and be good leaders if they examine their habits.

“If you never do anything else, learn to pay attention to yourself,” says Lennick. “It’s not about always being focused; it’s about knowing where your mind is and doing the right thing.”


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