How to develop social awareness

I was stuck on the side of the road with a flat tire. My truck’s rim bent out of shape. 

It was cold outside. It was raining. I didn’t have a jacket. 

I should have paid attention. 

The dash on my Tundra even has a little light to alert me when there’s a problem. 

But because I didn’t pay attention to the warning signs, I was:

  • Outside, 
  • Getting rained on, 
  • Changing a tire.

In reflection, this is a lesson about paying attention.

Paying attention to warning signs is essential and an easy way to avoid costly mistakes (replacing the tire of my truck wasn’t cheap). 

As leaders, there are significant consequences when we fail to notice the warning signs shared by our teams. 

This failure to recognize the “Check Engine Lights” on your team can lead to: 

  • Absences
  • Quiet quitting, 
  • And unwanted attrition. 

Take the time to be aware of and respond to the needs of your team so you can avoid these unnecessary expenses.

It’s called social awareness. 

Social Awareness is the ability to recognize and understand other people’s emotions. 

People who work for more empathetic leaders reported being more Engaged, Innovative, and Less likely to leave their job.

Last week, I wrote about Self-Awareness.

Emotional intelligence teaches us that we must first be aware of and manage our own emotions before we can accurately recognize and respond to the needs of the people around us. 

It is a great way to expand your influence and improve your brand because people will be more likely to invite you into rooms where decisions are made when they know you’ll understand how to read the temperature of the room.

Here are a few tips that will help you become more socially aware.

People Watch

Put away your phone for 11 minutes and pay attention to the people around you. 

Remember life is a journey, and to become socially aware you need to develop the habit of noticing the people you encounter. 

  • If you are in an office, walk around it and observe. 
  • If you work from home, be more observant on Zoom calls.

Pay attention to body language, tone, who is engaged in the conversation, and who looks like they are waiting for an opportunity to speak.

The better you are at observing the people around you, the better you will be at responding to their cues.Be an Engaged Listener

To become a better listener, learn to ask better questions. 

Ask questions that help you dig deeper and gain a better understanding of the person’s perspective of a problem. Hold back on being judgmental or trying to solve the problem immediately. Just be curious and focus your energy on genuinely wanting to know more. 

🕶Do this instead of jumping straight into problem solving mode: At the end of the conversation, ask if there is something you can do to help. In many cases, you’ll discover they just needed someone to talk to.

By asking questions to understand where people are coming from, we avoid falling into the trap of trying to solve the wrong problem. 

For example, I once had a person on my team start showing up for work ten minutes late every day. He kept telling me it was car problems. Because I took the time to sit down and talk with him, I learned that the real problem was that his childcare changed their opening time. 

He was working on finding an alternative option, but ten minutes late was as early as he was able to arrive in the meantime. He said he was fired from a previous job for a similar situation and wasn’t sure how to approach it. 

Once we had clarity, we were able to find an easy solution that worked for everyone.Ask Don’t Tell

You know that you’ll get further when you state your observations in the form of a question, right? (See what I did there?) 

Here is a better example of what I mean.

If you have a supervisor who is starting to negatively impact the culture by spending the majority of their day barking orders, it is crucial that you get them this feedback and ensure they understand immediate change is necessary. But don’t start there. 

You must be the example. Start by stating the observations you’ve made and asking if everything is okay. Use I statements.

For example, “I’ve noticed a change in your tone when you talk with your team. Is everything okay?”

Social awareness is all about seeing the issues and taking the time to ensure you’re fixing the right problems. When you address the warning signs early on, your team won’t break down. So what’s next?

Next week I’ll be sharing a few tips on change management. 

As a leader, you need to learn to effectively create change because the world is more dynamic than ever.  It means leaders need to be adaptable and progress to remain relevant. 

Embracing change ensures that organizations are prepared to tackle future challenges and seize emerging opportunities.  Next week I’ll be sharing a few tips about how to do it.

Jacob Espinoza is a leadership coach in Salem, Oregon. For more information visit JacobEspinoza.com.

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