Unlocking the power of self-aware business leadership

14 Aug 2018

Unlocking the power of self-aware business leadership

Leaders who are self-aware and recognise how others see them can be transformative for any company and create better well-working conditions, says journalist Di Rix.

Imagine asking your customers, suppliers, peer managers and work colleagues to rate you and your leadership style. How would you feel? Apprehensive, or keen to see the results?

Well, 360-degree feedback now forms the backbone of all good leadership coaching and leadership potential programmes. Critically, it can be transformative for the wellbeing of an organization.

Personal perception

In the ever-complex, chaotic, digitized, challenging world that leaders find themselves in, it is no longer good enough to be an expert in your field.

Talented leaders, according to Eric Beaudan, Global Head of Odgers Berndtson’s Leadership Practice, based in Toronto, must have the ability to see themselves as they are perceived by others. Only then will they discover and understand the areas where they need to grow and develop as a person in order to become more effective.

Beaudan believes the talent agenda is now on par with company strategy, organizational efficiency, cost management, and technology.

“Leadership development is one of the biggest shifts the corporate world has seen over the past five to ten years.”

“Companies recognize that you can have all the technology in the world and the best strategy possible, but without the right talent you are not going to get results.”

Studies back up his convictions. A recent McKinsey survey found that 82% of Fortune 500 companies don’t believe they recruit highly talented people. And of those that do, only 7% think they can retain them.

Awareness and reflection

Colorado-based Renee Moorefield, CEO of Be Well Lead Well and Chair of the Global Wellness Institute’s Wellness at Work Initiative, agrees with Beaudan.

“What we do is to get leaders to understand that who they are shapes how they operate. It’s about looking at what are my world-views, my values, my vision, and asking if they are working.

“If my vision is to create a more effective organization, am I up to it? Am I willing to transform myself and be the kind of leader that will enable my team and others around me to thrive?”

Similar values

Spotted by Beaudan through his potential leadership assessment programme is the new CEO of Siemens Canada, Faisal Kazi.

“The programme really helped me reflect on myself and my management style, and how people perceived me. When Eric highlighted the fact that some of my leadership strength scores were among the highest he had ever seen, it gave me real confidence to leverage myself.

“Siemens has an extremely strong set of values, and I realized that Eric was proposing very similar ones, like the importance of being candid, more open, bolder, more visible and approachable, and that excited me.”

Self-awareness, says Beaudan, is crucial to wellbeing. “If you can’t manage yourself, and be composed and resilient as a leader, it’s hard to lead a team or manage and lead an organization. It is right at the center of what being an effective leader is.”

Maximising talent

Following his coaching, Kazi has introduced the concept of ‘Why?’ This encourages staff to question why they are doing things beyond the financial reward and also to get involved in Siemens’ ‘Business to Society’ programme. This measures the impact the company is having in Canada. Kazi says his team now takes more responsibility, freeing him to spend less time on the operational side of the business and more on strategy and championing Siemens’ charitable giving.

“The leader’s role is no longer one of control and management. Now it’s one that’s facilitative, more about coaching and maximizing the skills, capabilities, and talents of others, so they can shine.”

Renee Moorefield continues: “We help leaders shift from a reactive orientation to a more generative one. That doesn’t mean being innovative and brainstorming, it means being a leader who is inspired by a deeper sense of vision and purpose. It means serving something greater than yourself and being able to enroll people into that vision and create a shared energy so they are internally motivated.”

Talk among yourselves

Leadership coaching came late in the day for Najib Doubiani, the recently retired Technical Director of the Middle East and North Africa Coca-Cola Business Unit. Based in Morocco, the company brought in Be Well Lead Well as part of its 2020 Vision.

“After 35 years working 16-to-18-hour days leading a team of 70 engineers and scientists, we learned for the first time that it wasn’t shameful to sit and talk about ourselves and ask ‘what is in this for me?’. We realized we had been really missing something.

“For the first time, we gave as much time to thinking about how we could change things for our own wellbeing as we were giving to thinking about the company’s health.” For Debian, it was important to choose a few areas where he wanted to embed change for life: more time with family, eating better, regular exercise and, last, but not least, inspiring his team.

“We wanted to get rid of the joke that someone who left at 7pm was taking a half day’s holiday.” He set about creating office relaxation and exercise areas.

“I was always pushing my team to perform better, and we always did well, but we only ever discussed work. I knew nothing about them as people.”We set up a formal breakfast every month to talk about everything but work, and organized trips with colleagues and their families.”

The justification for the changes came a year after implementing the leadership programme. Having boosted their performance targets, Doubiani’s team won Coca-Cola’s prestigious ‘Best Improvement’ award for implementing the company’s 2020 strategies.

Way to go

Despite some success stories, workplace wellness programmes, a $40bn global industry, have a long way to go. As Moorefield says, many companies provide stress-management programmes, but then send workers back into a toxic office environment. That creates even lower morale.

“Programmes have to include a cultural shift or they will never be more than a programme. When human beings are seen not as resources, but as human becomings, as amazing examples of potential talent to nurture, that will change everything. And that’s all down to the job of a leader.”

This article is from the latest ‘Well Working’ edition of the Odgers Berndtson magazine, OBSERVE.

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