Self-awareness in Accountability

When holding people accountable, or when trying to, there is often a fear that something will go wrong, that the person in question won’t respond constructively and that stress will escalate because of it.

In my line of work – leadership development – we find that exceptional technical experts are often promoted to managerial positions, but rarely are they properly prepared for their new role which entails people management; this leads to a lack of self-awareness around what they can achieve with a team and how they manage relationships to make that happen.

Self-awareness is key to managing teams, though it is often ignored in such promotions.

To be aware of oneself is to be able to objectively evaluate yourself, to see and understand your triggers and behaviours, and to be able to manage your emotions.

Self-awareness is integral in managerial roles because it allows us to understand how our behaviours align with our values – it is all well and good for me to say I “want to work from a place of trust and respect”, but I can’t do that if I don’t know when I am being mistrustful and/or disrespectful. Once we understand our behaviour and can see whether it aligns with our values and intentions, we can course correct.

Another important aspect of self-awareness is emotional intelligence, which is based on empathy. Management isn’t just about paperwork, it is about people; empathy and emotional intelligence are integral to managing teams and the relationships within them – when we understand why we behave the way we do, we begin to understand why others behave the way they do too.

Very few people would say that they are entirely lacking in self-awareness, however, few have been shown how to be self-aware as a manager or leader. There are two sources which are useful for starting the journey:

  • The first is to complete one of the very many self-projection questionnaires that are available. I prefer CliftonStrengths (previously known as ‘StrengthsFinder’) as it provides a list of talents or strengths that the assessee prefers. These types of profiling assessments don’t tell you who you are, they are merely a tool for condensing information that you already have about yourself, and providing you with a consolidated description. This description brings self-awareness, as it showcases not only your preferences but also how they influence each other, and your behaviour.
  • The second is to become aware of your leadership style. Is it:
    – Visionary or practical?
    – About “telling” or “asking”?
    – About the task or the person?
    – About individuals or teams?
    – About small successes or the final goal?

Think about these questions and ponder what that means for you and your team. A very powerful combination is to both answer these questions and take the strengths test, as they will give you an integrated view of yourself and how others perceive you.

Accountability often gets boiled down to the ‘one thing that went wrong’ but handling a ‘singular issue’ is less about the individual problem and more about how it interacts with the whole ecosystem that is the workplace and the team of people who make things happen within it.

Everyone has their own strengths, weaknesses, values, triggers, and lives; each of these aspects is constantly interacting with, and impacting on, the others.

Understand your position in the process, recognise your leadership style, take a look at what your support looks like and make adjustments where necessary.