High level followership is not easy.
And yet, most people don’t really take time to examine their followership.
We tend to be to focused on leadership, or our next promotion, or what other people think about us. And when we focus on these things we lose sight of who we are in the relationships we have.
And what we need to do to improve those relationships with purpose and intent.
We also tend to forget, or choose to ignore, our biases and how they impact our understanding. That means we are probably missing critical information about how to engage effectively.
And biases aren’t the only thing we tend to forget. We have habits and we’ve internalized certain ways of doing things. This often means we are not open to seeing or learning about new methods that can improve our tactical engagement or refine our skills to better undertake the tasks at hand.
As if that isn’t enough, we can also fail to understand leadership’s intent or the frame they wish to place on the relationship, group, goals, objectives, or vision. And our mindset makes it difficult for us to adapt to any changes in personnel, hierarchy, social changes, direction, and more.
So to be a good follower means really knowing a great deal about yourself in order to better understand the people around you.
Followers who take time to better know themselves, their biases, preconceived notions, and prejudices that might have been created over time in the relationship.
There are a lot of ways we can better learn about ourselves.. Taking time for self-reflection as well as asking someone you trust to give you a real breakdown of how they see you can be a first step.
But there is so much more than this.
One of the tools that I tend to use is the concept of an ideational hierarchy. It is a process of looking at all the main ideas I hold to be right and true. And examining my perspective on those ideas. I try to rank them and give myself a sense of how they may have changed over time. When I start with a new team, I like to take some time to review my ideational hierarchy and see what ideas may have changed and how those changes have impacted my perception of the world.
Another step in building a sense of self knowledge is to actually listen while negating the self. Next time you are having an important conversation, see if you can put aside your sense of self and listen with the ear of the speaker. That sounds kind of funny, but most people don’t speak to be understood – they speak the way THEY understand.
That means that, while they want you to understand them, they are not focused on how YOU will hear, listen, interpret, or feel about what they say.
In order to negate self, however, we need to have a very good sense of self.
And when we want others to understand us, we need to try and speak in a way that the other will be better able to hear, listen interpret, and accept what we are saying. We need to speak with the EAR of the listener.
Doing that without self-knowledge is extremely difficult.
But upping our followership demands that we take the time to really know ourselves so we can better understand our leaders and group members.
And how about a close examination of our followership? When was the last time you asked someone how you are doing as a follower? Not as a team member. Not on your job description. Not as a leader. But as a follower who is trying to support and bolster leadership. Someone who is working alongside leadership with mutual purpose.
Looking at our followership is a big part of self-knowledge that we bring when we work on a team. Knowing how successful we are at making others feel that we want to follow and support and help manifest vision can help us learn to be better followers.
And that is huge.
Research tells us that middle management needs to focus on setting the followership example and demonstrate how to work within the organizational framework and context. There is a lot less forgiveness for poor followership at this level than with lower tier workers.
This is all about people skills. Not soft skills.
And it is about understanding the importance of effective followership.
A group of over 300 executives were asked about followership and over 95% of them say that true followership – not sheeple but people who engage in active participation and critical thinking – is a distinct skill that requires development.
Learning how to follow starts by understanding yourself and where you are now in your followership.
So #BeCourageous and start today. Take time to examine your followership and learn how other see you as a follower. Find out where you need to improve. And do so with a clear mind and foreknowledge about your own biases and ideational hierarchy.