Why Self Awareness is Essential to Success

While I was interviewing a CFO candidate last week he showed me a graph about self awareness to illustrate some of the communication complexities that emerge as your company grows. Later that week as I was working on developing some content for my upcoming book it really struck me just how important self awareness is to success – individual success, success as a leader, and success within an organization (whether that’s a company or a family unit). If you don’t understand yourself (your motives, your personality, your idiosyncrasies, what your want, what drives you, etc.) it is very difficult to understand others and navigate the intricacies of communicating with various people with conflicting and competing wants and needs. First understand yourself, then seek to understand others.

Below is an illustration of what happens when leaders and employees are aligned (or not) in terms of self awareness.

Self-Awareness Graphic

Let’s break this down:

  • Employee is Self Aware & Leader is Self Aware —> There is a huge opportunity for the employee and leader to succeed together in the organization.
  • Leader is Self Aware & Employee is NOT Self Aware —> There is an opportunity for the Leader to work with the Employee to develop their potential and their self awareness.
  • Leader is NOT Self-Aware & Employee is Self Aware —>There is a lot of frustration between both leader and employee, often in the form of communication and assumptions. This is also true when the Leader is self aware and the Employee is not.
  • Leader is NOT Self-Aware & Employee is NOT Self Aware —> It’s complete chaos! And the likelihood of either party being successful and providing value to the organization is limited.

We use a couple of tools to really help our team members (leaders and employees) develop self awareness: the User’s Manual and Behavior/Personality Assessments.

The User’s Manual is something we have each team member complete upon joining our company. We share these with each other, from the Executive team to any of their team members. Transparency is critical here and can mitigate so many potential issues. But the best part about this tool is being able to reflect and bring more self-awareness to yourself. There are six categories: Expectations, Values, Idiosyncrasies, Strengths, Weaknesses, Processes. Take the time to really understand where you stand with all of these for yourself and then share and discuss with your team. You will all be better for it.

While we use the behavior assessment when interviewing candidates, it’s such a critical tool to pull back out before you have a conversation with a team member or if you are trying to figure out how to better communicate with someone on the leadership team. Hell, it’s a great tool to do a gut check about why you took something personally or why you may be having communication issues with someone on your team. Review your behavior first and then take a look at someone else’s and see where there could be some issues. “It’s not you, it’s me,” actually applies here. Take ownership of your assumptions, attitude, and communication style and you’ll be one step closer to being a self-awareness master.

Beyond being able to work well with your team, without self-awareness you can be in constant conflict with yourself! Imagine if you are in a job or a relationship that you are always at odds with. It’s easy to blame your partner or your boss. But what if it’s because that career path or your girlfriend really don’t align with your core values, your personality, your wants and needs? The first step is awareness and then it’s deciding what action to take. Sometimes it’s as simple as having a conversation and making sure everyone is on the same page and hearing the other person’s perspective. Other times, it means you’ve got to take massive action: quit that job, move to the city, or break off that engagement. Intelligent individuals can adapt to any situation regardless of whether or not it is a natural fit for their behavior and personality. However, when stressed or under too much duress for too long, even that highly intelligent person can be stretched until they break. You don’t want that for yourself or for anyone in your organization. Get really focused on developing your self awareness and teach your team how to do the same. Success is just a self-awareness step away.

So, how about those 2018 goals? Use your newfound self awareness to really get clear on what you want and why. The more self aware you are, the more realistic and attainable your goals will seem. Are you really going to do the actions required to accomplish your goal? Maybe. Maybe not. How self aware you are will determine your success while goal setting and ultimately, in achieving success.

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