The Art of Self-Awareness.

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Self-awareness (or lack thereof) continues to be the reasons people don’t get the job (even when they have the skills), it stops them from getting the promotion and gets in the way of teams performing at the highest levels.

We’re often asked if we can teach self-awareness. While I have no empirical data to say that 95% can (or can’t) I do believe that anyone who is willing to put in the work to become more self-aware can do it. It’s all about consciously making a decision to do so.

So how do you know if you have good self-awareness?

  1. You regularly take stock of your feelings, your physical sensations, your reactions, your thoughts and your behaviours.
  2. You check in with yourself as if you were another person observing yourself; an interaction happens and you can give yourself open feedback on what went down.
  3. You’re not afraid to check in and ask for feedback about yourself from others (even when it’s hard to hear!) and (not surprisingly) it matches your own opinions.

So, what’s the first step to work on my own self-awareness?

Most resources say simply to start keeping a journal and do some self-reflection. My fear with this however is that people choose to only see what they want to see and reflect how they want to.

So here’s a couple of good first steps:

  1. Start with a conversation with someone saying you want to become more self-aware. Tell them what you think you do well and what areas you need to work on. Ask them for feedback.
  2. Write down what you said and then go back to that person regularly to check in. By the way, it’s important for you to choose someone you trust so you really hear the feedback as well; don’t just choose a cheerleader (a coach, mentor or friend who doesn’t hold back would be best).

More great resources on increasing your self-awareness are here.

How do a I handle a manager who appears to have no self-awareness?

Fun story (present company included) – entrepreneurs can have pretty low self-awareness (sometimes it’s why they chose to be an entrepreneur). The thing is, as an entrepreneur we often have imposter syndrome, or we are faking it till we make it so we come off as less self-aware. That and narcissists tend to also be entrepreneurs. And all the literature shows you’re never getting through to a narcissist so we might encourage you to look for alternative work.

But in all seriousness, we’d like to point out that highly emotional reactions to something is not necessarily low in self-awareness. That’s a low in self-regulation. Our best advice: try to understand their preferred communication styles and try to speak in that language as much as you can. For example, when it comes to me, anything close to perceived as passive or passive aggressive will be met with a direct challenge. Instead, be direct with me and tell me what the issue is but also provide me a solution. Show me you did your homework first. And most importantly, take ownership.

How does your manager like to be communicated to? Once you figure that out and start building a stronger relationship, you’ll eventually be able to provide them feedback to increase their self-awareness. Or better yet, maybe they’ll drop their guard and you’ll get to see they know themselves better than you think they did.

(And yeah, yeah – as a leader I’ll commit to working on that self-regulation issue but that’s another blog…)