“Is It Me?” How to Diagnose a Management Problem

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Self-awareness is one of the most powerful qualities you can cultivate in yourself. For CEOs, a high level of self-awareness is the strongest predictor of overall success. For HR managers, self-awareness makes you more sensitive to social cues and shifts in company culture. And for just about everyone else in your company, self-awareness is key to preventing and managing stress.   

But just because self-awareness is important doesn’t mean it’s easy. It’s hard to take an unbiased look at your performance and your workplace, especially when it’s your job to lead with confidence. In fact, the most difficult moment to be self-aware is when you begin to realize that you or your management team might be causing the problem.

If you’re starting to think your leadership team might be to blame for emerging challenges in your workplace, don’t try to run away. The quickest and most painless solution is to practice self-awareness and face them head-on. These common symptoms can help you diagnose and treat management problems in your company.

Symptom 1: High Performers Are Leaving

It’s natural for star employees to move on to new careers at different companies. The best leaders coach employees to become the best they can be, even if that means leaving the organization that trained them. However, if you’ve noticed a sharp increase in turnover of your highest performers and hardest workers, you may have a management problem on your hands.  

There are a number of effective strategies you can implement to reduce turnover, but try to focus on the ones that involve reflecting on your management style. For example, review how much recognition and praise you give to employees, or how you evaluate and adjust workloads throughout the year. And make the most of your exit interviews with employees by asking them to provide feedback on your performance as a manager.

Symptom 2: The Culture Is Turning Toxic

If your company culture report is providing increasingly negative feedback from once happy-go-lucky employees, don’t jump to blame the new hires. In reality, it’s just as likely to be a response to bad habits that have crept into your management style. Micromanagement, encouraging the wrong kind of competition, and lack of career development can cause even the most dedicated employees to become resentful.

Self-awareness really pays off when it comes to troubleshooting a toxic culture. After all, the workplace magnifies a leader’s personality and working style. What might be a small flaw in your communication style — being too brusque, or being too talkative — can have a butterfly effect on the rest of your team and impact the culture in a way you might not have considered. Carefully observe how toxicity presents in your culture and see if any of the symptoms trace back to your management habits.

Think it might be your employees after all? Here’s what might be motivating your employee’s toxic behaviors.

Symptom 3: Employees Are Burning Out

Employee burnout hits the hardest workers first — they’re the ones cranking out the midnight oil to get things done, and they’re the ones that care the most. But we all know what happens when you’re the only one who cares: after a while, you break down and you just don’t think it’s worth it anymore.

If employees are burning out, find out why. Do they have too many responsibilities? Are they not getting enough support? Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you’re empowering your employees with freedom when actually they’re floundering for lack of leadership. Even if you have a very hands-off leadership style, you should still play an active role in communicating with employees, approving projects, and providing feedback on completed assignments.

 

While it might seem like the easiest solution is to blame a bad culture on a toxic environment or a few bad hires, sometimes all signs point to the management. Use these tips to diagnose and work around acute culture issues that stem from management. Because no matter how uncomfortable it may be to dig deep into your culture problems, you and your company will reap enormous benefits from practicing authentic self-awareness.

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