Why Self-Awareness Is Key

Until the mass implementation of robotic work forces using self-learning artificial intelligence, most organizations will continue to do as they have since the beginning of time—rely on people. If you have spent any time managing people, you know it can be great and challenging. (That’s putting it nicely.)

Fundamentally, all managers know deep down inside that the more time required to deal with staff to get the desired results, the more costly it is to the business.

While to me “self-awareness” feels like the current buzz word being driven into the consciousness of American business people and wannabe entrepreneurs by people like Gary Vaynerchuk, it is critical for organizations focused on their staff’s long-term health and success to ensure the highest level of self-awareness among their people.

Employee self-awareness can be a tough for an organization to influence. When you look at the actual term, it’s about individuals getting to know themselves and learning what their individual strengths, weaknesses, desires, goals, and passions are.

Even though it is a solo mental journey, managers can do a few things to help achieve higher levels of self-awareness in their people.

Even though recruiting would seem to be the first step, if you are reading this, I assume you already have a staff in place. Therefore, it’s best to start with what you already have. Taking a step back, ask yourself: Which people on the team are the right fit for my organization, both in terms of results and cultural fit?

While it might seem good for top line revenue to have a superstar sales rep crushing quotas all the time, such a person could actually be costing the company more than they are generating if they are not a good culture fit and are driving away good team members or even managers, or creating more work for managers to deal with.

In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins talks about the principle of first getting the wrong people off the bus, and then the right people on the bus. The first step in most organizations I have dealt with is to help the wrong people off the bus.

While no one enjoys the process of terminating employees, the key thing to remember is that if you as a manager/organization are not happy with an employee’s performance, then most likely that employee is not happy with it either.

When done correctly, you are actually doing the best thing for such employees by transitioning them off that team and into another department or out of the organization altogether.

Once you have the team set with the right people, the next step is to add more of them. Obviously, every organization’s goal is to hire right the first time. But that doesn’t always happen as planned. I feel that the two most important attributes an organization, especially a sales-based team, wants are willingness and intrinsic motivation.

Cy Wakeman, in her book No Ego, really hammers home the point of management only working with the “willing.” The negative, verging on toxic, ego is the one that gets in the way of reps learning from management, accepting necessary changes that occur, and fitting into the organization’s culture (instead of making the organization deal with their personality and preferences).

Again, top and bottom line revenue can be greatly increased by these types of high-maintenance top performers, but a scalable business cannot be built if it requires that type of person to succeed.

Instead, as Cy discusses, you want people on the team who have no (unhealthy) ego and are willing. This means they are open to change and feedback, and they are always looking for ways to grow and be more successful in whatever they are given. We all know these types of team members. We all love when they are in our organizations. We always want more of them.

One key way to identify someone who will be on the higher end of the willing spectrum is to look for someone who is intrinsically motivated, meaning their motivation to perform, to even show up each day, comes from within themselves. The more internally, intrinsically motivated someone is, the less management will have to rely on the carrot or the stick to get the desired results.

The problem with carrots and sticks is that people get comfortable and conditioned by them so they lose their effectiveness over time. The carrots have to get bigger and bigger to get people to continue to perform. It starts with a small amount of cash, then a bigger amount of cash, then a television as a prize, then a bigger TV, then a trip to Mexico, then a cruise, then a flight into space.

In a weird reversal of the “What have you done for me lately?” approach that managers can have with sales reps who need to close deals regularly, some reps will also have a dialogue in their minds: “What is my manager going to give me today in order to do my job?”

The same cycle occurs with the stick—over time, reps will get desensitized to discipline, or meetings, or write-ups, or threats. Management’s only last result will be terminations. And if that is the standard approach, it will lead to an unhealthy and unproductive culture, as well as a bad reputation internally and in the community for the organization.

The key is to hire and foster people who have a high level of intrinsic motivation. During the interview process, it is imperative to ask the candidate what their current goals are. I like the “What gets you out of bed each day?” question. This should not be reserved for just high-performing position candidates, but for any level of employee being hired. Everyone within your organization should have something they are working toward. And there is no correct answer, just that they have something.

Once you hire that individual, the second part is to help foster what motivates them. I am a huge fan of vision boards that each employee (and not just sales, but everyone from operational staff, customer service, accounting, etc.) creates themselves and has prominently hanging in their work area as a constant reminder of what is important to them.

Then when management does offer carrot-type incentives (spiffs, bonuses), managers can help tie that into each person’s goal(s).

It all starts with self-awareness. Your goal as a manager should be that everyone on the team has some level of awareness of who they are and what makes them special as well as what motivates them. Some people will be easy; some will be tough. It will come down to how much “life” they have lived and how well they know themselves.

Once you have the right people on the bus, and the team knows who they are, then do everything you can to use their internal motivations to get the results you need as an organization and that they want in their own lives.

If you have a team and you would like help increasing the collective self-awareness level, email me at jason@jasoncutter.com or use the Contact page.  Let’s set up a time to talk and I will do my best to give you some suggestions that could help your organization.