Yesterday I took part in a TweetChat presented by the #bealeader community. The topic for the chat was the importance of self-awareness for a successful leader. One of the questions posed was "How does one keep self awareness from becoming the less desirable self involved?". I responded with a concept that I had been taught very early in my career that I have since dubbed "humility time". I had a few responses that unfortunately, the 140 limit of Twitter made very difficult to properly respond to.
Very early in my career, I worked off the premise that knowledge was power. At the time, I had all the knowledge, and assumed that granted me all the power. My team very quickly delivered me a very harsh reality check in letting me know that was not going to be the case. My manager at the time explained the importance of self-awareness. She recommended I mentally schedule time for myself to intentionally be the guy "that does not have all the answers". That meant not only admitting that I didn't have all the knowledge, but it also made me learn how to ask questions I did not have the answers for, and recognize those that did.
Over the next several years, I experienced very rapid success and growth in my career. Each step of the way I reminded myself to always set aside this time "to not have all the answers" - Humility Time. I became a very energetic and passionate leader. I believed that I was someone that could teach others how to achieve more. Every step of the way, I never stopped this practice.
Towards the end of yesterday's chat, the host (@gingerconsult) asked me if I felt I needed this time to stay connected to my teams. That comment really made me think (also the primary reason I want to share this). I have always felt that I had a very strong connection with my teams. Because this practice had become so second nature to me over the years, I did not think that it was responsible for the bonds I had built. The reality though, is yes, this practice is largely responsible for the connection I have with my teams. I believe my manager back then (still a very trusted mentor) recognized my penchant for letting my passion allow me to race ahead without turning around to see if others were still following. This practice, although much evolved, over the years has allowed me to always remember that a leader does not exist without a follower. It made me learn, that in the Leader-Follower relationship that it is the follower that is most important. The followers will mold their leaders with the qualities they desire. By continuously asking questions, I nurture that relationship in a way that helps me quickly identify ways to be better, and reinforces in them their decision to follow.
I did however consider a potential pitfall to permanently adopting this practice. Anything on a schedule, especially a repeated item, becomes a chore. As long as you feel you are maintaining personal and professional growth, and never feel you are acting to "cross something off your list", this can be a very powerful tool.
Thank you to +Jen Olney and your #bealeader community. I learned a lot in your chat, and even just by writing this article!!