Originally published on Inc.com.
Good leaders take this to heart. Great leaders take a deep dive into themselves to be able to know themselves exceptionally well. Accurately. Deeply. No blinders on. You need to know what drives you, what accelerates you, what stalls you, and what stops you.
Leaders need self-awareness before they can live in self-alignment. Awareness breeds authenticity; alignment breeds integrity.
Leaders who don’t know themselves can’t effectively lead their teams. They put people in the wrong places, and everyone is out of alignment. No one is working in their strengths, no one is happy and productivity tanks.
But, when you really have extreme knowledge of yourself, your strengths, your weaknesses, your style and values, when you can say yes to the right things and no to the wrong things, it’s much easier to lead everyone else.
So what exactly about yourself do you need to understand? Glad you asked.
1. Know your operating system.
Your personal style makes up the core of how you will cope with an ever changing environment. Most people have taken or heard of a style assessment like DISC or Myers Briggs. But do you really take it to heart? Learn about yourself and whether you are creative or driven, detailed or helpful. Maybe you are a combination. Most people are. The way you operate is not how everyone else operates. Take the time to consciously work to understand and respect others’ perspectives. No single person has everything it takes to run a company; that’s why you need a team. As leader of the team, you will be expected to model knowing yourself to your employees, which will help with future growth.
2. Know your values.
Your internal motivators are sometimes unconscious to you, and when they are unconscious and automatic, it’s hard to understand when and why conflict occurs. When values collide, you get angry people, so knowing this in advance can help you build and guide teams effortlessly by understanding the true motivators for yourself and your people.
To find the guiding values that are running your life, ask yourself “What’s really important to me about..” and apply that question to your life, your career, your employees and your family. Your top 3 values can help you make the right decisions every time. Once you know your top 3 values, for every decision you are making ask yourself “does this decision honor value 1? Value 2? Value 3?” If the answer is all yes or all no, the decision is obvious.
Struggling with anything is a sign that you are operating against your own internal needs. Slow down. Think differently and ask questions of people who have been there before you, so you don’t have to struggle alone.
3. Know your strengths.
You spend a lot of time in your company doing everything. Heck, sometimes you think your middle name is “janitor”. Maybe you can’t afford to hire everyone that you need. That’s okay. Be creative in getting the things off your plate that you are not good at doing, don’t like or don’t want to do. Create strategic joint ventures to get what you need so you can be working in your strengths.
4. Learn to say No.
Saying “Yes” to every opportunity is what many entrepreneurs do. Great entrepreneurs say “No” or “Not Now” to the things that don’t make sense in the moment, or the timing is not right. When you try to force an opportunity and work hard to make it happen, it often falls apart due to some member of the team or even you not being ready. Just because you can see the vision doesn’t mean you have the tools to execute. Do what you can with today’s resources to build a solid foundation for tomorrow.
5. Know your one big thing.
Companies driving solely by profits can sometimes fail to connect the emotional dots. The Gartner Group says “1% happier employees = 3x more productivity.” Consider this when trying to get your employees and yourself to produce more sales. Are they happy? Do they matter? Are they appreciated? This is the one thing by which you can drive your employees’ experience of working with your company, which then drives more sales, fewer sick days and better customer service.
Once you really, deeply know yourself and can say “Yes” to the right things and “No” to the wrong things, you can put your creative entrepreneurial mind to solving the problems that your company solves.
You will get out of the everyday details of working inside your business and grow to a place of freedom, which is why you started your own business in the first place.
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