Thursday / April 25

75% of leaders derail their careers unintentionally. Here’s how a little self-awareness can make sure this doesn’t  happen to you. 

You read the headline right.  

Research from the Center for Creative Leadership found that 75 percent of leaders derailed their careers because of a lack of emotional intelligence. 

Odds are you will do something that will derail your career – unintentionally,-m unless you happen to be that special one out of four leaders that don’t. 

I don’t like to gamble nor do I like those odds. 

Lucky for you, you can grow your emotional intelligence.  

I should know.  

In 2019, I scored a 72 on an emotional intelligence assessment I took by TalentSmart. After working on this aspect of my leadership, I increased my emotional intelligence score to 78 two years later.  

Emotional intelligence is made up of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. Today’s post focuses on self-awareness. 

Building Self-Awareness 

The good news is this: you can significantly improve your self-awareness in five minutes or less a day. A simple routine can help you anticipate challenges and have a measured response. Here’s how to do just that. 

Identify Your Triggers  

I used to have a colleague who wanted me to proofread all her emails before she hit SEND.  

I found that to be SUPER annoying! 

It was a waste of my time and I didn’t understand why my colleague lacked the confidence to read over her own work before sending out an email. 

At my best, I would ask some questions about the email, encourage my colleague, and honor my boundaries. 

At my worst, my face would communicate something differently, I would let out a long sigh, and say something I would later regret and have to apologize for.  

The author Alan Rober Neal says, “Don’t invite annoying people into your life, and set ground rules for the ones you inherited.”  

You will inherit a lot of annoying people and situations. That’s okay, you are not exempt from an annoying-free life.  

The self-aware leader knows her triggers and is able to do something proactive about it, so when those people and situations arise (and they will!), you don’t react or do anything you will be sorry for later. 

Make a List 

If you find yourself saying or doing things that you’ll later regret, here is how to fix it in just five minutes. 

Step 1: Grab a sheet of paper, and add two columns to it.  

Step 2: List the people and situations that trigger you in the left column. 

Step 3: List WHY these people and situations bother you so much in the right column. (For example, I grew up in a single-parent household. After school, it was my responsibility to not only finish my homework and chores, but I had to make sure my sister was doing that as well. I did that growing up, and so I don’t want to check up on adults!) 

Step 4: Review your list regularly. 

The simple act of identifying the people and situations that trigger you will make you less reactive. You will be less surprised when you experience these stressors in real-time. This is one way to pivot from reactive to proactive leadership. 

Revisit your values 

When we act outside our integrity, we do and say things that we will regret, cause harm to our relationships, and potentially derail our careers. 

A misalignment between our values, words, and actions is a common cause of these problems.  

This doesn’t have to be a complex activity. Again, you can do it in five minutes or less.  

Somewhere near the end of each day, review what you did and note any alignment/misalignment between your words and deeds, and your values.

A more formal practice might look like this … 

Step 1: Add three columns to a sheet of paper. 

Step 2: In the left column, list your personal core values. 

Step 3: In the middle column, list all the things you did that  misaligned with your values. 

Step 4: In the right column, identify what you could have done differently and if any repair needs to be done. 

Step 5: Revisit this activity regularly and watch yourself dramatically decrease the things you say and do that are problematic. 

Commit to an end-of-day journal routine 

For the last two years, I have been implementing an end-of-day journal routine that has changed my life. I learned it from the Chief Transformation Officer at Google, David Peterson. 

Like the other activities, this journal routine takes me five minutes or less.  

In my journal I answer the following questions daily: 

  • What is something new I tried today? 
  • What is something I learned? 
  • What worked for me? 
  • What didn’t work? 
  • What will I do differently tomorrow? 

With this tiny habit –just five minutes or less a day – I’ve been able to build upon successes, spot trends in my leadership that need to be addressed, and have become a more proactive and self-aware leader. 

Ready to Level Up? 

Self-awareness and growing your emotional intelligence will help you be more effective. 

For more practical tips, case studies, and research on how to grow your self-awareness, check out my latest book, Mastermind: Unlocking Talent Within Every School Leader, co-published by Corwin and AASA. 

Buy the book today! 

Written by

Daniel Bauer is the Chief Ruckus Maker at Better Leaders Better Schools (BLBS). He launched his BLBS podcast in September 2015. With over one million downloads, the BLBS show is the most influential podcast available for educational leaders. In 2016, he changed how professional development is offered to school leaders through the structure of a mastermind. Since then, Daniel has coached and mentored over 100 school administrators from every continent in the world.1 In 2017, Daniel launched The School Leadership Series, his second podcast, which amplifies the diverse voices in school leadership today. He is the author of The Better Leaders Better Schools Roadmap: Small Ideas That Lead to Big Impact, which released as an Amazon #1 new release. Daniel’s Just Cause is “to connect, grow, and mentor every school leader who wants to level up.” Reading this book helps move his Just Cause forward, and sending it to your colleagues in educational leadership helps even more.

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