I had a great coaching call recently with one of my coaching clients. At one point in our discussion, she said that she felt like she had a real breakthrough.
She noticed that when her thoughts about a situation at work were leading her in a certain direction, she was able to pause. She realized that she was telling herself a story, a story that might not be true.
As humans, we tell ourselves stories all day. Most of them are wrong.
We make assumptions
You start a new job and you’re learning about the company, your goals, your coworkers, and the big project you were hired to manage. As you learn more about your coworkers and get to know them, you think that one of them is withholding information that’s vital to your project. You may tell yourself that they don’t like you, they want to block you, or they don’t trust you enough to share information. Or, that they’re on some sort of power trip and keep things to themselves so they can seem like the expert.
But are any of those things true? Or are they simply a story you’re telling yourself?
Let’s take another example. My spouse comes home from work. He seems angry and quiet and he’s banging things on the table. I assume he’s mad, that he had a difficult day at work. But is that true?
In both cases, we’re making assumptions about the motivations and behavior of others.
We tell ourselves a story
The story we tell ourselves is likely to be wrong. We simply can’t see inside someone else’s head. We don’t know what’s going on unless we ask.
Maybe my spouse had a bad day at work. Or maybe it had nothing to do with work at all. Perhaps he had a great day but was in a rush to get home and watch the baseball game, and traffic was really backed up.
The point is that I’m telling myself a story about him and his dreadful day. I’d be better off to ask how he’s doing, instead of assuming.
When I develop more awareness that I’m assuming what happened to him, I can pause and be better. I can change my behavior. I can ask him about his day instead of assuming I know the answer.
This scenario plays out at work all the time.
We assume at work
We see someone’s behavior or results at work, and we assume. We don’t always have awareness that we’re doing this, nor do we have malicious intent. It’s simply an easy trap to fall into.
We assume and then we move on with our day, rushing to complete the next task. Assuming seems to help us move faster and accomplish more. But does it really?
We’re often wrong in our assumptions about others.
Change your thoughts
When you have great self-awareness of your thoughts, your mindset, and the thinking traps you fall into, you can start to change them.
Instead of assuming, you can ask.
Instead of judging, you can be curious.
Instead of jumping to a conclusion, you can be inquisitive.
By having greater self-awareness, my client was able to stop herself mid-story. She realized that instead of the assumptions she was making, it was possible that her coworker was simply busy, overworked, and just doing their best.
How we can be better leaders
Here are some tips for turning greater self-awareness into better leadership:
- Be open to new information and other perspectives.
- Admit you don’t know everything.
- Value the other person.
- Demonstrate empathy and understanding.
- Remain curious.
- Check your own story at the door.
- Listen well.
- Ask questions.
- Point your thoughts in the direction you wish to go.
These may sound simple, but they can be challenging to live out and to put into action each day.
What’s worked for you?
I’d love to hear from you about how you’ve developed greater self-awareness, and how you’ve put those skills into action at work to be a better leader.
Reach out to me by email or schedule a complimentary call.