Thursday, September 8, 2011

Are you Clueless?

When I was fresh out of college and ready to take over the world, I instead landed a temp job at an insurance agency, where I was heralded for my typing speed and the fact that I knew how to use Microsoft Word. Yay! for college degrees!

The job paid much better than the nothing I had been making, so despite being a job in an insurance agency (no offense insurance people – I went on to work in insurance for almost five years and I know you guys are pretty freaking fun!), I began working at the small agency, under the employ of quite possibly the worst boss in the entire universe.

I have to tell you, she has an entire FILE CABINET in my brain (go back a week or so to get that reference), all of exactly what not to do if I ever was in the position to manage people.

She was brutal. She and her husband owned the agency, but she was always reminding anyone who would listen that she owned the majority share, and thus, she was in charge of everything.

I can’t tell you how many times I worked late or came in on a Saturday to work on a proposal for her, only to hear her gushing to her client how much work she had done for him. The small staff in her office was miserable – everyone worked hard and rarely did we ever receive any recognition for it. The two employees who had managed to stay with “The Dragon Lady” longer than a year had morphed into her, taking out their frustration at her control by controlling those below them.

The thing is, The Dragon Lady prided herself in her leadership skills and went to countless leadership seminars and retreats. She loved to lecture us on how to become a great leader like herself and imagine how much we enjoyed the irony of those conversations!

So what’s the deal? Why was the Dragon Lady so clueless? I mean, she had been to all the classes. She knew all the best practices. So why was she such a horrible boss?

She lacked the self-awareness to realize that she needed the lessons that she was being taught! She did not perceive there was a problem to solve, because to her, there was no problem.

Of course, if you have a boss like her, I’m afraid there’s not much you can do other than buck up or leave… its not like you can say “Hey boss, quit being clueless!” and expect to keep your job.

And of course, you have already been on your self-awareness journey earlier this week, so you are well on your way to assessing your weaknesses and accepting where you need to improve, right?

But let’s look at your employees, your team, your staff. What does this say about all the leadership training that companies are constantly touting? Not a day goes by that I don’t receive at least one solicitation from a leadership seminar, webinar, book or blog. But what good is all this training going to do, if our employees don’t first understand themselves, their own strengths and weaknesses, their own reactions to responses and situations?

Before we begin any leadership training, I believe we first need to institute some self-awareness training. Helping our employees understand themselves will help them better work together.

As a leader, it is our responsibility to teach those we lead to be good leaders. What better way can we do that than by teaching them first to know themselves?

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