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Self-management - 5 August 2014

Some leaders seriously have it easy.  Their teams require minimal supervision, and this frees them up to get on with more important things as opposed to being caught up in daily trivialities.  Other leaders aren’t so fortunate.  Their teams are dependent on them to such an extent they’re unable to do anything other than sit close by and micromanage.

If you reside in that second category, there are several reasons that might explain your predicament.  It could be that your team is new and inexperienced.  It could be that you are personally plagued by insecurity and mistrust.  Or it could be that you haven’t created an environment that motivates employees to embrace self-management.

Self-management is when people take charge of their own performance.  They confidently make their own decisions and initiate change.  Leaders are able to step away for hours or days at a time without worrying about how their teams will perform.  And now, for the first time, a new study has found that self-managing employees are more likely to be highly engaged because they have, by default, a greater degree of influence over their work.  

Published in the Journal of Vocational Behaviour, the researchers discovered there are three ways in which self-management can be generated and nurtured. 

Personal observation:  This represents your employees’ ability to critically assess themselves.  The more aware they are of their attitudes, behaviours and habits, the more adept they’ll be at self-management.  As the leader, you can help them to become more personally observant by asking regularly for examples of how they’re applying their strengths successfully at work and how they’re managing the enfeebling nature of their limitations.

Personal goal setting:  This represents the latitude you give employees to develop – or at least negotiate – their targets.  When employees have a say in what’s expected of them, they pursue those goals with greater vigour than they otherwise would for dictatorial goals.  As the leader, you can facilitate this by providing employees with a high-level vision and then asking them to suggest the short-term goals they feel would have the biggest impact.

Personal cueing:  This represents the initiative your employees display in establishing reminders, such as written notes and to-do lists, which prompt them to focus on the specific tasks that need to be completed.  You can assist them to put these sorts of cues in place by providing training on time management, personal leadership, thinking styles, and productivity.

The useful thing about self-management is that it can be taught.  Research has proven that when employees are provided with development on how to personally observe, set goals, and establish cues, they perform remarkably better than those who are left untrained.  

So, in essence, self-management provides leaders with a valuable opportunity to step back.  But first they need to step forward.


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