emperors new clothes

February 12, 2010

A Manager’s Vital Toolkit – Creating Self-Awareness

As we manage our people, it’s very easy to get wrapped up in what we are doing.

Understanding whether the directions we are taking is always right can be a challenge.

One of the biggest difficulties that managers have to face is the ’emperor’s new clothes’ syndrome.

Often quoted, this is the story of the emperor who, caring so much about his clothes, hires two swindlers who promise him the finest suit of clothes from the most beautiful cloth.

This cloth, they tell him, is invisible to anyone who was either stupid or unfit for his position. The Emperor cannot see the (non-existent) cloth, but pretends that he can for fear of appearing stupid; his ministers do the same. When the swindlers report that the suit is finished, they dress him in mime.

The Emperor then goes on a procession through the capital of his country, to show off his new “clothes”. During the course of the procession, a small child cries out, “But he has nothing on!” The crowd realizes the child is telling the truth.

The Emperor, however, holds his head high and continues the procession.

No-one tells you how you are doing, so it must be OK.

Being a manager means that you either have to ensure that others feel so comfortable about working with you that they are prepared to give you the feedback that you might not want to hear – or you have to have sufficient very objective self-awareness of yourself, that you recognize when things need to change – and you have the courage to make it happen.

More, you need to be sufficiently sensitized to the need for change in yourself, as well as your business, that you are able to self-manage yourself.

Getting the right sort of constructive feedback for yourself can be hard to access, but suffice to say that feedback from others is very valuable – and more so because it builds a great relationship between you and the others on the team.

And remember awareness is also the capability to ‘sense’ how things are in others too. By building strong relationships through regular conversations, you will develop your sense of intuition too, which makes a big difference.

Personally developing the quality of self-awareness cannot be overestimated, so spending some time creating this exceptional skill is well worth that little bit of extra effort on your part, whilst cultivating your people to help you out too.

When you have your people on your side as well as developing your own self-awareness skills is a great way forward and, as they see this work for you, they will start to consider carefully and appreciate their own capabilities too.

Filed under Blog, Great Quotations, Management Basics, Managing Me by Martin

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