Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR
Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?
Instead of looking inward, social awareness requires a leader to look outward to learn about and appreciate others. For some leaders, this skill does not come naturally or easily and therefore avoided. For others, demonstrating personal appreciation is viewed as a frivolous exercise or “fluff”, when there are so many important tasks to be accomplished.
What is the case for doing it anyway?
The reality of it all is that every person wants to feel special. When leaders can open their awareness, and identify other’s unique feelings and perspectives, they will more likely be able to connect on a level that has the potential to inspire true engagement. Leaders with a high level of social awareness “get” the members on their team. They know when to push. They know when to give space. Leaders that are not socially aware of those around them often “miss the boat” with their team…and the results will show it over time.
How can you do it?
- Greet people by name. A human’s name is the special set of sounds they have been identifying with from birth. Greeting someone by their name is the most basic and influential social awareness strategy a leader can use. Using someone’s name breaks down barriers, levels “hierarchy” and demonstrates a genuine warmth and connection in a very personal way. If you are not good with remembering names, please practice some memory techniques before trying this.
- Make timing everything. When dealing with people and their feelings, timing really is everything. Nothing more will demonstrate that you are not connected than to misalign your actions with the emotional state of your team (i.e. blowing a party horn in celebration when your team member is crying). In leadership you need to remind yourself that it is not all about you…it’s about others. Practice your timing of requests. Pause and observe others around you, allowing your mind time to focus others instead of your “mission”. Chances are it can wait.
- View from another perspective. When we “walk in someone else’s shoes”, we get a deeper understanding of persons around us, giving us an opportunity to communicate better and identify potential problems before they get out of control. One simple technique is to ask yourself “If I were <name>, what would I be feeling right now?” Put away your own beliefs, emotions and feelings…and truly try to put yourself in your colleague’s frame of mind. Respond to your colleague in the way you have determined based on this process. You can’t read minds, so this may take a bit of trial and error, but the pay off when you get it right? Priceless.
Can you describe another technique you use to personalize your interaction or response? Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog. We learn best from each other’s experiences.