Psychology is one subject that has to be taught to everyone in school. It being the science of behaviour and mind, lets us understand ourselves and the people around us.
I would put two things at the top of the requirements for being a good manager – ability to understand oneself and the ability to understand others. Most recruiters will ask you what your strengths and weaknesses are. That’s them trying to figure out how much you know yourself. And it is imperative that you figure out how your mind works. You start off with understanding who you are, what makes you the person you are. But before that, you need a crash course on psychology and The School of Life is a good place to start. Watch a few of their videos and you start relating to a lot of what they say. Eventually, you start ‘psychoanalysing’ yourself (trying to make sense of your way of thinking). And that’s where you start the journey.
The first thing that I realised was that I get angry when I am hungry, and that led to me ensuring that I stuffed myself before stepping into meetings. I also realised that I am a quick learner and that I am able to find patterns and make connections faster than most people. I often forget this and this leads to me going too fast or being too vague. In a debate about the freedom of speech between Christopher Hitchens and Shashi Tharoor, Tharoor talks about how one should try not to hurt the sentiments of the audience while exercising the freedom of speech. Hitchens, on the other hand, says the audience not being intelligent enough to understand what the speaker is saying (or take it in the right sense) is to blame and that one should be free to say anything and everything. I tend to side with Tharoor, as I believe that not everyone can be on the same intellectual plane (and not all the time) and hence if you are saying something, you are morally obliged to not say things (deliberately, especially when you know that some in the audience feel strongly about something or someone) that will hurt someone’s sentiments. I realised that I had to apply the same principle everywhere. The leeway that I am ready to extend to this fictional audience should be given to my professional circle. I started by asking myself “dumb” questions while preparing for any form of communication. This helped me ensure that what I said or wrote was as simple as it could be.
Another thing that can help is meditation. Spend a few minutes at the start of every day meditating. You will hear a lot of top performers (from every field) saying that meditation is part of their morning routine. Meditation lets you become ‘mindful’ and helps increase self-awareness. You will find Apps in the App/Play Store that will help you with guided meditation. Try it out for a few days and see if it helps you (it is something that has to be experienced, not told).
Meditation and spending time to analyse your way of doing things (or emotions) will help you understand yourself. But what of the people around you? Joe Rogan says that he looks at other people as him leading different lives; essentially, put yourself in their shoes. Do not assume that the other person is bad/good, but figure out why they do what they do. Analyse them as you analysed yourself. Eventually, you develop better relationships, get your people to work better, and you become a great manager.