According to a June Gallup poll, 54% of workers surveyed said they are currently not engaged, meaning they are “psychologically unattached to their work and company.”
Another 14% said they are actively disengaged, meaning they “have miserable work experiences and spread their unhappiness to their colleagues.”
The number of engaged workers dropped 7% from the month prior, which counted as the most significant dip in employee engagement over the last 20 years.
If you’re currently struggling to lead your team under strange new circumstances, you’re clearly not alone. Oftentimes people think leadership training is learning how to manage or control what other people think and do – i.e. how to motivate them, how to get them to listen better, get along with each other and perform at a higher level. The truth is, a lot of the work I do is actually focused on getting individuals in management to better understand themselves.
Yes, leadership is being able to motivate a group of people to act towards achieving a common goal. However, what most people often don’t realize is that we must get to know ourselves, first, so that we can understand how our own thoughts and behaviors are (or, aren’t) influencing the people within our organizations.
How do you behave at work? What work style and communication traits are associated with you?
There’s an African proverb, “The camel never sees its own humps, but that of its brother is always before its eyes.” Others see your style. Do you?
Over the years, I’ve found that technically skilled people (like me – an engineer) do not often have an innate ability to be self-observant. We’re like the camel. We see the humps of those around us but not our own. As a manager, you need to know your work and communication style. Thankfully, there are tools like DNA Behavior, DISC, Strength finders, Enneagrams, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator that provide insights into your behavior. If you don’t naturally observe your behavior, these tools can be particularly helpful. Even if you are self-observant, these tools still offer aha-moments about yourself.
Today, let’s examine your strength and communication style.
What’s your go-to strength? Your strengths come naturally to you. So naturally, in fact, that you may not even notice them. When I work with coaching clients, we do exercises to identify strengths and I frequently hear, “Wow. I didn’t know that was a strength! I thought everybody could do that.” Your strength is hiding in plain sight, but it’s hiding. Let’s find it.
Pretend that you are faced with a difficult work problem. It’s a dilemma. How do you approach it? When you get stuck, on which behavior do you consistently fall back? For example, when I’m perplexed by a problem I think, “Okay. Let’s take a step back and see the big picture. What’s the goal and the steps to reach the goal?” My ability to see the big picture and dissect the problem into core elements for action is a key strength for me. I thought everyone could do this but I was wrong. It’s my superpower. What’s yours?
What do you do when the going gets tough? Do you:
- Dive into the research
- Gather all the details
- Collaborate so that all are engaged
- Start with the big picture
- Create a step-by-step process
- Seek to know the people involved
- Consider the personalities
- Assess the office politics
- Look for trends
Your natural approach to a tough situation likely reveals clues to a key strength. What is it for you?
Advanced consideration: Overused strengths.
For those of you who want more advanced consideration, take your strength to the next level. You should feel good knowing your strength as it is always available to you. That’s good news. However, you probably heard the saying, “If you only have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” That’s the case with your strength. You will try to use it ALL THE TIME whether it fits or not. As I mentioned, my strength is being goal-driven…every day. That’s been a formula for success most of the time but not all the time. I learned a hard lesson when a staff person came to me in tears thinking that I didn’t like her because I never spoke to her. I never spoke because I was wrapped up in prioritizing goals in my head each morning as I walked past her desk. I over-used my strength.
What about you? Are you a great collaborator but collaborate so much that you miss opportunities? Are you exceptional at managing office politics to the point that you can’t be candid? Are you skilled at gathering and analyzing data to the point of analysis paralysis? Where have you over-used your strength?
Your communication style is another “hump” or trait that is on display every day. What is your natural communication style? Here again, assessment tools (DNA Behavior and DISC, for example) give clues to your communication styles. Without self-awareness, you are likely to use this style whether it suits the situation or not because your natural style is the easiest for your brain to enact. In order to manage your approach, you first must be aware of it. Consider a time when you were under pressure. How did you communicate to others or what type of communication worked best for you?
- Quick or cautious
- Direct and candid or tactful and polite
- Drawing visuals or writing words
- Collaborative or in control
- Quick to get to the point or prefer to chat first
- Conceptual or data-driven
- Considered or hasty
- Speaking your mind or holding your tongue
- Intense or restrained
Advanced consideration: Your communication style from other perspectives
You’ve considered your communication style but how does that style come across to peers and staff? They experience your communication style every day. It may not be what you think.
You think you’re being succinct, and they see it as brusque. You think you’re being flexible, and they see it as wishy-washy. This is where 360 tools can bring compelling insight. Consider your last interaction. How would you describe your communication style? Now consider it from another’s perspective. How might they have perceived it differently? Is there someone you trust with whom you can ask – “How did that conversation come across?”
By examining your strengths and communication styles you move past the proverbial camel. You have a sense of your “humps” and that makes all the difference.
If you see the power in knowing yourself, you may be interested in my mini-coaching program. It uses a simplified self-assessment tool followed by an individual session with me. Clients walk away with a surprising amount of information about their strengths and communication style. As one client said, “The results…opened up new ways to see myself and position myself for future positions. The bottom-line impact is greater confidence and that’s critical.”
Harter, Jim. (July 2, 2020). Historic drop in employee engagement follows record rise. Gallup. Retrieved from: https://www.gallup.com/workplace/313313/historic-drop-employee-engagement-follows-record-rise.aspx