You’re not the boss of me
Some people have dreams of being a leader or being the boss of something. Maybe that’s you, and maybe not. But I bet you don’t dream about other people bossing you around for your entire life. You want to make your own choices, create your own path, be your own person, live your own life… right? You want to be the boss of yourself. You need to lead yourself. So what kind of boss are you?
Managers vs. Leaders
Think back to all the managers, bosses, teachers, and coaches you’ve known. Which ones have been the most influential to you? The ones who instilled fear and drove you to work by yelling about expectations and deadlines? Or was it the ones who took the time to know you, encouraged you to know yourself better, and inspired you to want to work harder?
Managers use their authority to tell others what to do and demand outcomes. They might use fear, and blame, and subtle threats to get those outcomes. Leaders use their relationships and goodwill to help their employees figure out the end goal. Then they inspire the employees to want to achieve the outcomes. They might use questioning, coaching, encouraging, and inspiration to get their employees to do what’s needed.
Have you been trying to manage yourself?
I pride myself on being a pretty good leader of other people. It’s important to me to know about my team members individually. I like to know what makes them tick. What do they dream of? Why do they work here? What do they hope to achieve each day? And most importantly, how can I help them feel fulfilled? Once we build that relationship, rapport, and understanding, it’s so much easier for us all to be on the same page and achieve great results at work.
But when it comes to getting outcomes from myself, I can be a pretty mean boss. I speak to myself in ways that I would never dream of speaking to an employee! In fact, some of the ways I’ve spoken to myself would probably land me in court if I spoke that way to a team member. My expectations are very high, and when I don’t meet them, I’m really hard on myself. I’ve been trying to “manage” myself rather than “lead” myself.
Signs that you’re trying to “manage” yourself:
- You give yourself a list of tasks and deadlines. But you don’t consider why those tasks are important to you, or whether the deadlines are reasonable.
- Your to-do list leaves you feeling overwhelmed and like a failure.
- You talk down to yourself, punish yourself, or feel self-anger when you don’t achieve something.
- Your priority is meeting others’ expectations rather than thinking about what you want to achieve.
How to “lead” yourself:
- Spend some time getting to know yourself. What has shaped who you are today? Why are you doing what you are doing? What are your future dreams? What is important to you?
- Inspire yourself. Dream big and think about the possibilities. What can you contribute to the world? Imagine your best self, and then think about how you can be that person.
- Connect to the bigger picture. When creating a task list for yourself, be sure to think about why each task is important and how it’s contributing to your bigger picture.
- Encourage yourself. Rather than putting yourself down, encourage yourself to keep trying and to do better each day.
- Be kind to yourself. Showing yourself some compassion and kindness will go a long way in changing your attitude and inspiring growth. Being mean to yourself only makes you feel bad – it doesn’t make you want to do better.
- Have regular check-ins. When leading other people I like to check in with them every now and then to see how things are going. Are they closer to their goals than last time we met? What’s gone well? What hasn’t gone so well? Is there anything I can do to help them? Check in with yourself and ask some similar questions. Make sure you’re on track and gently re-direct yourself if needed.
- Celebrate your wins. Even if it’s something tiny, acknowledge and celebrate all the good things you achieve. Success builds on success, and celebrating these wins creates motivation to keep going.
Once you start leading yourself rather than ‘managing’ yourself, you will begin to make better progress toward your goals. Just as we grow more and learn more when we have a great leader at work or school, we will grow and learn more if we are a good leader to ourselves.
Give it a try and let me know if it works for you.