The idea of self-management seems pretty simple. It says it all in the name, right? You manage yourself and . . . done.
But self-management is much more. And why does it matter? Self-management helps you to be a better leader. It helps you get shit done and move forward. I have heard a lot of different ways of defining self-management. I think there are 4 things to focus on: adaptability, drive, emotional restraint, and positivity.
Adaptability: When I was an HR baby, I supported a site of about 500 employees. I was learning so much good stuff about HR and how to partner with leaders to make a great employee experience. Then one day, my manager called me from Texas and told me the decision was made to close my site. I was informed about 4 months before the closure and was tasked with all the ins and outs of how this would work. These people had become friends, not just co-workers. Coming into work for that 4 months was rough. I had to face them and work with them everyday, knowing what was coming. I also had to learn a lot, very quickly about how to handle a site closure- WARN Act, OWBPA, outplacement services, to name a few. While I was scared I was going to screw up, I adapted. I was worried about the people who would be affected, and busy as all get out, I adapted. It wasn’t fun but it made me realize that I could still have a positive impact on this team. This started my growth in self-management.
I think adaptability is how you adjust when new things come your way. In today’s world, there is no way you can survive without adaptability. Some people interchange adaptability with change management skills. I would mostly agree. An example can be as simple as a shift in deadlines that causes changes to a project plan. Or it can be huge. Your company was just bought out and you are thrown into a new role, with new tools that you have never used before. Being able to keep your head in the game, even when you may be freaking out, is a matter of having adaptability.
Drive: About three years ago, I started down a path to build out levels and structure for the organization. I started small by going to teams and talking to them about why this was important. Some got it and some were not so enthused. I kept pushing though and we added some experts to this tiny team to help with the compensation pieces. I was joined by a partner in this work. She and I sat in a room for weeks playing with different structures. We thought about levels and the compensation that would go along with it. Neither of us are comp experts so that added another piece to our learning curve. It was not fun work at times. It was hard and thoughtful work that had to be done right. It affected our employee’s career paths and their wallets. There were many late nights and many tough conversations. There were times we all wanted to give up and say eff-it. But we knew it was the right thing to do. We knew it would help our employees. We were driven to succeed. Drive creates better self-management.
I look at drive in two ways. It’s what keeps you going and it’s passion. On the days when you are heads down trying to solve a problem and you work from 7AM- midnight, and still want to come back the next day to keep working on it. That’s drive. When you follow the mantra of Thomas Edison, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” That’s drive. When you are passionate about a topic and you wake up in the middle of the night smiling and scribbling down ideas. That’s drive. Keep getting back up. Keep going. Drive. Leaders can inspire people to be driven but it is the passion inside them that keeps them going.
Emotional Restraint: Ahh. . . emotions. They’re fun! But how do you keep those silly emotions in check. I am reminded of the movie, Inside Out. Such a fun way to think about how we process emotions. But let’s apply this to real life. How do we make sure that joy comes through more than anger? The ability to check your emotions at the door and focus objectively is important. This does not mean you cannot be passionate about something (see Drive). It means you are able to step back and be able to hear others ideas and thoughts without screaming. You can give people feedback without it becoming a personal attack. You can receive feedback without feeling defensive. You know that the feedback is coming from a good place. You can rein in your passion about a project if it is not the right time for the business to pursue it. This one is hard for me because I do get fired up about things, in a good and bad way! I don’t need to share more about how I get excited about HR stuff, you all have read many of my stories on the subject! Again, this comes back to self-management though. Keeping your emotions in check will build your self-management.
Positivity: You know those days when you come home and you are exhausted but fulfilled? You think about the conversation you had with the CFO. She looked at your roadmap and was happy with your progress. You reflect on the insights you provided to a manager to help them make a good decision. It was a good day.
Then think about the days you feel defeated. Nothing seemed to go right. You disagreed with a teammate and broke the relationship a bit. You lost all your program files when you deleted a folder by mistake.
It’s easy to stay positive on that great day but how do you stay positive on those not so great days. This is one of the most important pieces to self-management. Staying positive.
Now this is not to suggest that you need to be sunshine and rainbows at all turns. There are going to be days that are tough. That example I gave of deleting all those files. That happened to me about a month ago. I was freaking out- not my most positive moment.
Positivity is being able to keep your head up. On those days when you have to be adaptable and driven, it is also good to be positive. An example: you can disagree with a decision made by your leadership team behind closed doors. Yet, you will support the decision and make it successful once you leave the meeting and face your team. And speaking of team, this is key to being a good leader. You need to help your team understand the impact they are making every day. They are important to the organization’s success. Take those lemons and make lemonade for the team. Then add some vodka and everyone wins! This is positivity.
Bring adaptability, drive, emotional restraint and positivity together. This gives you the keys for self-management.