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According to Dr. Meredith Belbin, "no one is perfect but a team can be".


At the same time, the difference between a leader and a manager is that a manager is a job title bestowed by management, whereas a leader is someone whom is supported and recognised by her team members.


As such, a true leader need to be self-aware of her own strengths and weaknesses, as seen from the perspectives of her team members.


Hence, this month's topics:

  1. Are You Self-Aware of Your Strengths and Limitations as a Leader?; and

  2. Self-Awareness and Conflict Resolution

This issue's main article is on "Are You Self-Aware of Your Strengths and Limitations as a Leader?", and we will share with you some actual cases how the lack of self-awareness causes unnecessary conflicts and breakdown in communication, and how you can avoid such things from happening for you.


In brief:

  • Are you self-aware of some of the leadership mistakes (no matter how big or small) you have made recently?  Have you been taking steps to make sure you don't make similar mistakes again?;

  • Have you been listening to the feedback from your team members? Not just those that say nice things about you, but honest and objective ones as well?;

  • What have you done to develop a safe and approachable environment for your team members to give honest and objective feedback to you?  Or do your team members find it too daunting, or useless to provide their feedback?   Read on... ...

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Are You Self-Aware of Your Strengths and Limitations as a Leader?


by c.j. Ng



Chantelle is caught in a fix recently.  Her direct report, Tina, hasn't been showing a positive attitude at work recently and Chantelle's been trying to give her feedback to Tina about her recent poor performance.


Unfortunately for Chantelle, instead of responding positively to her feedback, Tina went to lodge a complaint of ill-treatment to Chantelle's boss, John.  And instead of viewing the issue objectively, John thought that Chantelle has been mistreating Tina, and intervened in the matter without first consulting with Chantelle.  In a nut shell, John transferred Tina to another department with lesser work load, and put it on record that Chantelle needs help in her people management skills.


John's actions obviously upsets Chantelle, whom thinks that she did not do any wrong, but was treated unfairly.  She began to think that John is jealous of her achievements, and is trying to make her look bad so as to pass her over for the promotion that was due to her. 


In response to John's action, Chantelle decided to be as uncooperative as possible at work.


The Mistakes that Leaders Make

In the above case, it will be clear from an objective observer that:
  1. John should not have intervened into his subordinate's subordinate's matter, not at least without consulting with Chantelle before doing so.  This not only undermines Chantelle's authority, but it will also send a wrong signal to other staff that they could bypass their immediate superiors and go to John directly;
  2. Chantelle, being a manager, should know better that her uncooperative attitudes towards her immediate superior, is not really the right behaviour that a leader should possess
The above is but one of the many real cases of mistakes that leaders or managers make in a team setting.
The bigger issues are:
  • Many managers/ leaders are not aware of their mistakes in the first place;
  • Some become defensive and brush off feedback (from either team members or peers or even superiors) that point out their mistakes; and
  • A minor few can be delusional that they are immune from making any mistakes!
In an age where leaders and their teams are more interdependent, and work that is getting more collaborative, today's leaders need to really get objective feedback on how they can be better leaders, and how they can support their team better.  In fact, according to Dr. Meredeith Belbin, "no one is perfect but a team can be".
After all, the key difference between a leader and a manager is that a manager is a job title bestowed by a higher authority, whereas a leader is measured by the support and recognition given by the team.  If this sound overly New-Age, here are some quotes from the military:
  • "Authority is given, but respect is earned" is an often quote in military leadership training.  Sure, a subordinate can be punished for insubordination, but if someone does not respect you, that means you haven't earned his respect yet;
  • The 5 key leadership virtues according to Sun Tzu's Art of War are "Wisdom 智. Trust 信, Compassion 仁, Courage 勇, Discipline 严".  It takes a combination of all 5 to actually take in feedback. 
In other words, you can only be truly aware of your strengths and limitations, of the things you did right and the mistakes you have made, through feedback.

How do You Distinguish Good vs. Bad Feedback


Some leaders' concern about feedback is that some team members make use of feedback as a means to provide excuses.


Here are some tips on how you can distinguish between good and bad feedback:

  • Did the person giving the feedback try to suggest possible solutions, or did he merely state the problems and challenges?;
  • Did the person giving the feedback tried to improve the overall situation for your and the organisation, or did he merely try to get a selfish gain
  • Did the person give only positive feedback, and omit all honest constructive criticism?

Perhaps the biggest reason that most team members don't give their feedback is that they don't feel safe about giving those feedback.  Some bosses ignore the feedback from their team members.  Some managers and leaders actually fired team members who tried to point out their mistakes. 


As leaders, you don't really have to argue or clarify too much, IF you deem the feedback as irrelevant or misunderstood.  All you need to do is to show empathy and gratitude that someone, be they your team member, superior or external partner actually bothered to take time to give you the feedback.  If the feedback is useful, use it.  If not, simply thank and acknowledge it, and then move on.


In one of the worst real cases, the managing director of a company was so unaware of his limitations, and totally brushed aside all forms of feedback that could have helped with the situation.  Eventually, most of the loyal team members who were also key contributors left the company, simply because they were totally disappointed  with their boss's attitude.


What did that managing director do after those key employees left?  Did he go on to reflect how he could have handled the situation better?  Unfortunately, no.  In fact, he called those who left the company "Rice Christians", a derogatory term for people who show up to get paid without contributing anything.


Ultimately, it will be the leader/ manager who will suffer if she does not have the self-awareness to know where his limitations are, and how he could learn from his past mistakes.  He will get less contributions from team members over time, and will eventually lose out to competitors who are better in harnessing the wisdom of their teams.


Achieving Self-Awareness in an Objective Way


While proactively getting feedback from your team might be a good way to gain self-awareness on what you have done well, as well as what you could have done better. Sometimes, though, you may need a more systematic view of what are some of inherent strengths and limitations, so that you can play to your strengths and then build a team who will make up for your limitations.


The Belbin Team Role Profile is perhaps the only online assessment tool that allows you to gain self-awareness of your strengths and limitations of your team leadership by combining the results of your self-perspective, with the observations of a number of observers who work closely with you.

Based on the assessment results, leaders and managers could then:

  • Map out a developmental plan to optimise their strengths, and be aware of their limitations;

  • Seek ways to communicate and work effectively with others with similar or different Team Roles Profiles; and

  • Work with a team with diversified Team Role Profiles to make it into a perfect team.

If you work in an environment or culture that it is rare or even awkward for team members to provide direct feedback to the team leader, the Belbin Team Role Profile will be a convenient tool for leaders and managers to gain self-awareness through a 360-feedback easily.


Need help in improving your self-awareness so that you can be a more effective leader? Simply e-mail or call +86-136 7190 2505 or Skype: cydj001 and arrange to buy me a mocha. All information shall be kept in confidence.

Power Breakfast Hour:  14 Aug 2013

Are You Self-Aware of Your Strengths and Limitations as a Leader

  • Why Managers/ Leaders need to be self-aware of their strengths and limitations to be more effective;

  • Real-life case studies on managers/ leaders who are not self-aware, and the negative consequences that follow;

  • How to improve leadership self-awareness in simple, objective yet practical ways, in all kids of cultural environment.

VENUE: Crowne Plaza Shanghai • 400 Panyu Road (near Fahuazhen Road) • 上海银星皇冠酒店 • 番禺路 400 号 (靠法华镇路)

DATE: Wednesday,  14 Jul 2013

TIME: 08:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.




To make this a more conducive discussion, we are expecting a small group of about 15 people only. The room can only take in 18, so please register early to avoid disappointments. Please e-mail your registrations to


Pls. check out our web sites and for more inspiration.

Tips for Managers:

Self-Awareness and Conflict Resolution

Peter Vajda


"Knowing thyself" is an in-depth understanding of "who I am" and "how I am". This understanding of one's self is the product of the formal and informal experiences of living life. But, to be clear, this understanding is not the result of simply "having" experiences, but is the result of deep, consistent and conscious reflection on one's experiences - the lessons learned, be they the good, the bad or the ugly.

Self-awareness occurs as the result of experiencing some sort of inner or outer conflict which tugs on our sleeve and forces us to change. One of the results of such transformation is that we often change our value system which is reflected in new ways of thinking, being and doing.

Examples of experiences that bring us to "know thyself" include mid-life crises (which, by the way, are affecting people at earlier and earlier ages today, no longer just in middle age), health issues, relationship issues, career issues, financial issues and mental, emotional or psychological issues.

At work

In the workplace, organizational awareness is the totality of each employee's self-awareness. Where employees are more self-aware, workplace conflict can be minimal and constructive. But in an environment where the majority of employees are non-self-aware, conflict can be insidious, toxic, all-pervasive and destructive.

The bottom line is that the way your organization, department or team handles interpersonal conflict can either be an experience of vitality, collegiality, and camaraderie, or toxicity, demoralization, resentment, disrespect, resistance, and derailment.

When folks' attitudes, beliefs, and values are in alignment, their behaviours are consonant and supportive of departmental, team and organizational goals.

However, when one is driven by self-limiting and self-defeating personal biases, prejudices, beliefs, assumptions and "stories" - all of which are unspoken and often unconscious - discord often rules and ruins the day, ruins the meeting, ruins the processes and ruins relationships until folks agree to "out the elephants" in the room and consciously deal with the dysfunctional behaviours that underlie conflict.

"Soft skills"

When leaders, managers and supervisors have the strength and courage to understand and agree that "soft skills" are the "hard skills" of effective relationships at work (and do the work that's required to bring people to that level of awareness), defensiveness, resistance, turf and ego issues will begin to melt. In their place, people will begin to feel, and be, freer in their behaviours and attitudes in a way that fosters greater mutual respect.

The process of knowing thyself begins when one consciously explores "how I am" and "who I am" when it comes to "the way I am", i.e., the way I communicate and interact, with others.

Self-mastery explores things like:

  • my verbal and non verbal behaviours,

  • my emotional behaviours - how I express my feelings and emotions

  • my intentions underlying my behaviours - my hidden agendas, or disharmony where what I "do" is out of alignment with what I "say"

How do I "know myself?"

"Know thyself" requires taking a conscious look at how I experience myself at work and how I experience my interactions with others. Self-mastery requires us to examine the disconnects that exist between what we say, think, feel and do - disconnects that lead to being out of harmony and integrity, and to being unethical and disrespectful (in thought and action) that result in counterproductive patterns of behavior, and conflict.

"Know thyself" requires taking a conscious look at why, for example, I need to lie, cheat, steal, bully, gossip, and be disagreeable, disrespectful, resistant, non-trusting, sabotaging, discourteous, and insensitive.

Some questions for self-reflection

  • How would I rate myself on a scale of 1(low) to 10(high) on the following: (a) my being a team player; (b) my relationships with others; (c) how much I trust others; (d) the quality of my communication efforts with others; and (e) my attitude?

  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how self-aware am I of my feelings and emotions?

  • Do I believe life is a "zero-sum" game - that if others "get theirs" I won't get "mine"? If so, why? And, if so, has this attitude brought me more pain or happiness in my life?

  • Do my relationships manifest trust, dignity and respect?

  • Am I harboring grudges from the past? If so, why?

  • Do I live my life based on the "oughts" and "shoulds" of others? If so, why?

  • Do I have counterproductive habits and patterns I am afraid to release? If, yes, why?

  • Are my relationships at work characterized as task orientation or relationship orientation"?

"Know thyself" requires taking a conscious look at "where I'm coming from" and whether "where I'm coming from" is supportive or limiting to the team, department and my organization.

The bottom line of knowing thyself when it comes to conflict is this: conflict is rarely the result of "technical" issues. Most often, conflict is based on some underlying fear and is an interpersonal, psycho-emotional dynamics issue.

"Task orientation" and "people orientation"

People can relate to one another on the basis of a "task orientation" or on the basis of a "relationship orientation". Task orientation centres around functions, roles and business strategies and tactics. Relationship orientation centres around trust, safety, understanding, respect and sensitivity.

Effective conflict resolution must rest on the fulcrum of relationship orientation, on people, not processes. Organizational self-awareness occurs when the majority of employees are engaged, consciously, from the perspective of relationship orientation, i.e., "who I am" and "how I am" and not solely on "what I do".

A self-aware person is one who examines the quality of his/her interpersonal relationships in an on-going manner. A self-aware organization is one that examines the quality of its interpersonal dynamic on a regular basis.

To be an effective leader, manager or supervisor, this on-going exploration that leads to supporting people to actively and consciously engage in their personal growth would serve us well in an effort to reduce the negative effects of workplace conflict.

Focusing on the "technical" alone won't do it; never has, never will.

To find out how you develop good self-awareness skills to be a more effective leader, you can e-mail or call +86-136 7190 2505 or Skype: cydj001


About Directions Management Consulting


Directions Management Consulting is the partner of LeadershipIQ in China and Asia. LeadershipIQ helps more than 125,000 leaders every year through the facts drawn from one of the largest ongoing leadership studies ever conducted is used to help companies apply resources where the best possible results be achieved.


In addition, Directions Management Consulting is a leading provider of sales performance, innovation and experiential learning solutions in China and many parts of Asia. is the sales performance arm of Directions Management Consulting specialising in conducting training, research and consulting services for sales managers and their team.


Raybattle is the strategic partner of Directions Management Consulting specialising in experiential learning events and management retreats.


Currently, Directions Management Consulting has served clients such as GSK, InterContinental Hotels Group, Unilever, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Roche, Philips Lighting, Carrier, Ingersoll Rand, Freudenberg etc.


Through collaboration with consultancies such as Forum Corporation, MTI, de Bono China, ProWay etc., the consultants in Directions Management Consulting have served clients such as PwC, Volks Wagon, Air Products, Evonik, Wacker, Epson amongst others.


Directions Management Consulting will increase its efforts to conduct leadership studies in China and other parts of Asia, so that more companies apply resources where the best possible results be achieved in this part of the world.


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