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March 29, 2022 10 Min Read

Coach Taiwo Olajide Believes Good Leaders Grow Through Self-Awareness

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Coach Taiwo Olajide helps new leaders develop their “X Factor”—that special, intangible quality they need. And not just good leaders, but great ones. Helping others develop their leadership skills is his vocation. Developing the skills to have crucial conversations, establishing workplace boundaries, and learning how to listen are three ways Taiwo works with companies to develop their managers and leaders.

He discusses all of these ideas, and more, with fellow Coach Jamie Carroll in a recent episode of the podcast TaskHuman Talks. There are many important skills and characteristics great leaders have, but for Taiwo, the most important characteristic you need to develop as a leader is your self-awareness. 

Self-awareness Is a Leadership Skill

Better leaders are self-aware. If we’re willing to do the work to develop our self-awareness, then that means we’re also willing to learn what our strengths and weaknesses are in general. We can recognize when we are not the expert and learn from those who have more knowledge. Understanding our strengths and weaknesses can then allow us to practice self-reflection.

“The world is a messy place,” Taiwo says. “Life is messy. So ‘How do I become clear? How do I create clarity for those I lead?’ You always have to start with yourself. Until you have purpose for yourself, you can’t have purpose for others.”

According to Taiwo, self-reflection leads to us finding our purpose. And finding our purpose is critical because once we understand what we’re called to do, it is easier to put our purpose into practice. We gain clarity for ourselves.

As leaders, gaining clarity for ourselves means we can then translate that clarity to our teams. They better understand who we are and what we—as leaders— need to do for the team.

Overwhelm Comes From Lack of Clarity

As leaders, if we’ve explained the goals to our team well, they should understand what they need to do, and what the priorities are. But sometimes, we too lose sight of which projects are of utmost priority for team members (or ourselves) to accomplish, which can lead to feelings of overwhelm.

As Taiwo says, everything being a priority is a “false narrative.” It cannot be true by the simple definition of what a “priority” is. So, if your “to-do” list is becoming too long and you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s time to take a step back and rethink your list.

“What do I need to say ‘no’ to in order to say ‘yes’ to this new thing,” Taiwo says.

To help you reduce some of your workload as a leader, Taiwo suggests using the “Four D’s.” They are: 

  • Doing: completing the task yourself.
  • Delegating: giving the task to a qualified team member.
  • Deleting: removing the task from your list.
  • Deciding: figure out what you’re going to do with the task. 

Taiwo recognizes that delegating tasks may be difficult for some people, but he also thinks it is an important element leaders should embrace. By delegating tasks, you are helping to develop your team. Their skills and abilities improve. They are able to take on more complicated projects, so your ability as a team also grows.

“Delegation is not abdication,” Taiwo says.

In other words, giving someone on your team a chance to perform at a higher level doesn’t mean you could not do it yourself or that you don’t have the skillset. In fact, the opposite is true because you are actively improving your team members’ skills.

Recognize Crucial Conversations

There will be times when you disagree with someone at work. That’s ok. Having a space where different views are welcome is important in growing a business. When you’re conversing with team members or colleagues about the issue, sometimes the conversation can shift from what Taiwo calls a “regular conversation” to a “crucial conversation.” 

As someone developing their leadership skills, you need to know when you’re in a Crucial Conversation. Here are the signs:

  • Emotions are involved.
  • Stakes are high.
  • Opinions are varied.

Or as Taiwo says, you’ve moved “from dialogue to debate.” The problem? Someone needs to win a debate, which means there will be at least one person feeling uncomfortable at the end. 

To diffuse the conversation, remove some of the energy. Take a break. Get a cup of coffee. Do something that halts the growing tension and reminds everyone in the conversation that they are safe.

To get the conversation started again productively as a leader, ask questions. In fact, for Taiwo, leaders should “build the habit of question thinking.” By being active listeners, they learn about their team members and understand what each person needs in order to do their job to the best of their abilities.

“When you’re always giving answers, it becomes problematic,” Taiwo says. “Because answers are closed doors. Questions are open doors.”

As a leader, the more questions you ask, the more freedom to be creative your team will feel, and ultimately, the better project outcomes you’ll all have. When you allow your colleagues & team to develop the solutions, you help them grow.

“As a leader, you want to create an environment where, once you are there, everyone’s creative juices start to flow,” he says.

To listen to the entire conversation, click here.

If you want to improve your leadership skills, or you have new leaders in your organization that would benefit from 1:1 coaching, connect with Taiwo today and become the leader everyone wants to be near.


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