If we are around people long enough, we form certain beliefs and assumptions about them that may hinder our ability to be objective, fair, and clear when communicating and working with them. Sometimes, we also hold biases that aren’t based in the present but in the past. Here are a couple of examples:
A manager who has worked with an employee for years still tells the story of three years ago when the employee had a “difficult” situation in life. She was deemed to be overly “emotional” during this time. Since then the employee rarely gets helpful feedback due to those six months of struggle. Additionally, the manager now holds off on giving her opportunities that would advance her in the organization. The employee rightfully believes that she won’t achieve her career goals and doesn’t know how to talk to her boss about the situation so she’s looking for a new job. Her boss also believes nothing could ever be any different.
An employee experiences their manager as hypercritical and favoring the employees he hired over the folks who were onboard before. Although the manager tries and tries to make it better, nothing seems to turn the situation around. The team lacks the needed collaboration, creativity, and teamwork, which creates unnecessary silos in the company and comes across negatively to clients in meetings. No one wins in this situation.
The field of Neuroscience has taught us that we develop “grooves” or neural pathways over time and form “automatic” and repetitive beliefs, responses, and behaviors. In a way, we are hard-wired although, luckily, we now know we can rewire our thinking by creating new neural pathways.
If we want different outcomes, we need to meet situations and people – including ourselves – with kindness and an open and objective mind. I believe it takes the skills of self-awareness and self-observation to remedy our engrained habits, so here a few of the things I think it takes to develop these skills:
- Focused energy
- Clear intention
- Trusted advisors who hold up a mirror
- Curiosity – towards ourselves and others
One of my teachers, Dr. David Daniels, has two sayings that I believe are key to remember: “Self-observation never becomes habitual; it requires continuing practice,” and “Self-awareness never outpaces self-acceptance.”
I know this may seem like a lot, but I know from my personal and consulting experience that it’s worth the effort for you and your organization to develop these skills. If you need our help with this, we’re here.
Mary Anne Wampler
Principal, Transform, Inc.