In your career, it’s crucial to look at how you’re performing as an employee and as a leader. Regardless of whether you have a small or large team, being mindful of how your actions impact others will make you more empathetic and better received within your company. This requires you to ‘check yourself’ by being honest about both your star qualities and your shortcomings.
Like any assessments you do regarding your team or organization, you have to objectively determine if you are growing, developing, and progressing, says Ash Beckhman, a speaker, equality advocate, and author. “Leadership is not a finish line you cross. It is not something you achieve because of your position or status, and you’re therefore entitled to forever,” she says. “Leadership is something you continuously earn by showing up for others, reacting to challenging situations and learning from mistakes.”
Here is how to check yourself as a leader:
Set measurable goals.
Beckham puts it best: what gets measured gets changed. Think of it as replacing the flooring in your home. If you don’t take measurements, you won’t buy the right amount of materials — costing you time and money. When it comes to goals, you need an effective way to quantify improvement over time. There are many ways to achieve these aspirations as a leader, but one of the best strategies is to have one meeting every other week focused solely on getting to know others in your workplace. Ask them about what they do for the organization, what they do for fun, what they like about their work, and what you can support them. Then, set up a game plan for following up, like this one from Beckham:
- Quarterly, you circle back with these colleagues to check in on the action items discussed and their challenges.
- Annually, you will read a book or attend training on empathetic leadership as a form of continuing education.
- Regularly assess how the lessons learned from the above measurements can be implemented to make you a more empathetic leader.
Try to lift spirits, not crush them.
Though it may seem like tired advice, one of the most meaningful ways to lead is to set a solid example. This sometimes means you will have to focus on being positive, even if you are struggling yourself, says Sunny Bonnell, the co-founder, and CEO of We Are Motto. “Say your proposal was rejected, your client hates everything, or you didn’t land that latest round of venture funding. Now everyone’s sitting around a bit moody,” she says. “High-fiving each other in the Zoom room could be just the thing to pick up the morale of a department or a company that’s sulking after a defeat.”
Create a red, yellow, and green system.
And no, we don’t mean playing Squid Game here. Like a traffic light, you need to label your priorities based on urgency and importance, which will help you better juggle tasks. If everything feels ‘red,’ your employees will feel constantly taxed and stressed, warns Nikki Goldman, an executive coach, and the CEO and founder of I/O Coaching. Red means it needs immediate attention, while yellow is less critical and urgent, and green is the lowest priority. “Taking time to understand the ‘why’ behind something is crucial in checking yourself and your expectations of others,” she continues. “Setting priorities and making everyone aware of the rank of urgency and importance will help to create a shared language with the people around you and give you something external to point to when communicating.”
Recharge and replenish.
Some of the most influential and well-known leaders have one thing in common: They work all the time. And hey, this diligence and determination are what’s made them successful. However, if you don’t take time to pause, slow down, and take care of your needs, you can’t be the kind of leader you hope to be, Bonnell says. “To thrive as a high-performer, you also need to give yourself brain breaks and permission to shut off or recharge,” she continues. “This might mean a ‘no work weekend’ or putting your phone away after a certain time each night. Give yourself time to replenish your energy to perform at your highest when you need to.”
Create an “Accountability Council.”
While you may be a genius at inspiring others to be better, most of the time, Beckham says it is tough — if not downright impossible — to objectively hold ourselves responsible for our personal growth. She recommends finding a group of colleagues of varying positions and backgrounds within your organization and externally that can keep you accountable for your leadership development goals.
“These must be people who can give you honest feedback without fear of consequence. And you must be willing to put your ego aside to accept this feedback as a means of professional development,” she says. The idea is to create a safe place to share your goals and progress as a collective and then give each other feedback once a quarter.
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