Within the social impact sector, little if any budget is directed towards talent development. As a leader of an organization or a team regardless of its size, you may think this leaves you stuck with little hope of developing your people. 

This isn’t the case. A great deal can be done with little to no money, but does require reframing your thinking, a commitment on your part and a willingness to look at your own imperfections. 

If you’re up for the challenge, you’ll be personally rewarded, and also gain significant improvements in your team’s productivity, effectiveness, morale and satisfaction levels. 

The starting point – develop your own emotional intelligence through deepening your self-awareness. 

Why is that? 

Humans take their emotional cues from others – and in the organizational setting, even more so from leaders, managers and influencers. 

For example, think of a pessimistic leader and the impact their mood could have on their team’s willingness to put in extra effort to meet a tight deadline. A leader with low self-awareness may think their team isn’t proactive and dedicated enough, and therefore look to invest in training that would address these concerns. On the other hand, a self-aware leader may begin to understand their bouts of pessimism could be squashing some of their people’s enthusiasm to get the job done. 

Or take a leader whose recent angry outbursts in the office has left their team walking on eggshells, and for some, sleepless nights. A leader with low self-awareness may see a quiet employee and think they need to develop their communication skills or become more extroverted when really the person is afraid of the unpredictable behaviour of their leader. A self-aware leader likely already knows their behaviour isn’t appropriate and has started to consciously work on understanding their triggers and how to better manage their energy. 

And finally, an example frequently seen in the social impact space, a disorganized manager within a bureaucratic organization who causes a bottleneck that leads their team to be ineffective and frustrated. The unaware leader may be so clueless as to the impact of their procrastination, frenzied pace, and disorganized office that they instead think of any number of reasons why their employees are to blame. The self-aware leader would recognize their own developmental needs, work to understand the impact its having on their team, and then personally put the systems and processes in place to become more organized.

These are just three examples that show how easily the wrong talent development investments can be made by leaders who choose not to look at themselves first.

So where to start?

Your personality has go-to habits, patterns of thoughts, feelings and behaviours. To some extent, you may know what these are. Based on my experience working as a leadership coach, I’ve observed that many of us (including myself) have a general idea but often don’t realize the full extent of how we impact others. 

Here are three suggestions that can work within any talent development budget and that are suitable for leaders of teams and organizations of any size: 

  1. Start with this quick reminder, “when you point one finger, there are three fingers pointing back at you,” and ask yourself “how might my own behavior be impacting my people?” You’ll have a great deal more credibility with your people when giving performance and development feedback if you understand how your own leadership style is influencing them. 
  2. Read up on emotional intelligence. Check for books by Daniel Goleman at your local library or via their e-book collections. For a quicker read, start with Harvard Business Review’s 10 Must Reads on Emotional Intelligence
  3. Discover a personality system/framework that resonates with you – from Myers Briggs to Insights Discovery. I personally use the Enneagram with my clients as I’ve found it to be the most comprehensive personality system available, and therefore a powerful tool for cultivating self-awareness (the foundation of emotional intelligence). The Enneagram Institute’s website is a good resource to get you started.

If you do only one thing after reading this article, let it be this: take a minute to reflect on what ripple effect your habits and level of emotional intelligence potentially had on others today. And ask yourself “what could I do differently tomorrow that would benefit my team and organization?”

Good luck, and enjoy the incredible benefits of the self-discovery process.

About the Author

Heidi Kikoler is a leadership coach with Return on Talent, and a Change Management Consultant for the Toronto Transit Commission. She can be contacted directly via LinkedIn.

This post is part of the talent project led by the Global Social Entrepreneurship Network (GSEN, founded by UnLtd) and supported by the BMW Foundation Herbert Quandt. The project aims to shed light on challenges and solutions related to the attraction, development and retention of talent within entrepreneur support organizations. Follow along with #talentsummer.