As a kid, I always strived for excellence. I wanted to be the best version of myself in anything I did. I didn’t compete against others. I competed against myself.
As I grew up, life presented many opportunities and I seized them with all my strengths. At 19 I was already working as a software engineer and had enough money saved to purchase a car.
Before I bought the car though, my dad pulled me aside and said:
“David, you can buy stuff for yourself. That’s a choice you can make. But think deeply about who you want to become. When you invest in yourself, you grow because nobody can take your knowledge away from you, but when you purchase material things, you may gain some pleasure, yet you won’t become a better version of yourself.”
That honest conversation shaped my mindset and helped me understand the power of delaying gratification. I didn’t buy the car, but instead enrolled in university. I started pursuing a degree in computer science.
The skill my dad helped me develop is called self-management, which is helpful for personal and professional growth. In this post, you will learn what self-management is, the importance of self-management in the workplace, and strategies for implementing self-management within teams.
Self-management is the ability to drive your behavior, knowledge, and emotions towards meaningful outcomes. When one can step back and mindfully reflect on the best action to reach the desired outcome, that person is self-managing.
The benefits of self-management are tremendous. Here are some of them:
To understand the importance of self-management, we need to go back to the 19th century. Frederick W. Taylor introduced scientific management, which, in a nutshell, strived to identify effective ways people could perform a job with training and proper tools.
For a long time, companies worked with the Taylorism mindset, meaning that people were responsible for effectively performing tasks. A few would define what to do, while most would perform them. Yet, Taylorism is a misfit in our current knowledge era.
Today, people are highly skilled, and limiting them to performing tasks would be a shame. They can do much more than that. Self-management is a way of moving from Taylorism to our knowledge era.
Instead of defining tasks for people to achieve, leaders ought to set goals people pursue and empower them to figure out how to get the job done.
Another critical aspect is emotional intelligence because it is tightly connected with self-management. Understanding emotions and how to use them is vital to become self-managing. You can use your feelings to leverage collaboration. Here are some examples:
Working with self-managing teams is a blessing. They take accountability for results and figure out how to solve problems they face. Yet, they don’t overcommit or try solving everything on their own. They know what they can take and raise a hand when they need help.
For me, self-management is related to trust and treating people as adults. First, you trust people with important goals and treat them as professionals who know how to do their jobs. You give feedback, learn from the situation, and become stronger when things go south.
Managers of self-managing teams don’t need to worry about micromanagement, but must ensure the team has enough context to thrive. The management style is about leading by context and not control. Here’s an example:
Self-management isn’t a given and it requires specific conditions. You cannot underestimate the challenges of it. To move to self-managing teams, the leadership needs to take some steps:
When this happens, teams can become self-managing. It’s unlikely a team becomes self-managing without any external help. For that, an experienced coach would help.
Self-managing teams care about results and focus on uncovering what drives value and what doesn’t. They promptly drop bad ideas so they can focus on promising ones.
Self-management requires taking accountability for outcomes over outputs. Alongside this, emotional intelligence is vital for self-management because it fosters better collaboration and easier ways of solving conflicts.
As a leader, you need to empower your team with goals so that they can become a self-managing team. But in order for this to happen, you yourself have to be self-managing.
Featured image source: IconScout
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