Self-awareness has been called life’s ‘meta-skill’ for the 21st century.
The level of our self-awareness impacts all areas of our lives – including our career success.
Research now shows those with high-levels of self-awareness are more confident, build better relationships, are more successful and make the most respected and effective leaders.
Let’s dig into the benefits of self-awareness at work and how you can expand yours.
What is self-awareness?
Self-awareness is the ability to observe yourself —to take notice of the patterns within your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours.
It’s having a deep understanding of who you are as a person, how you relate to the world you live in, including your workplace. When you are self-aware, you understand your own strengths, weaknesses, blind spots, and biases.
When you see yourself clearly, you’re more likely to be able to grow and adapt different aspects of your personality, for the better.
Why is self-awareness important in the workplace?
New York Times best-selling author of Insight, organisational psychologist and self-awareness expert, Dr Tasha Eurich, calls self-awareness the ‘meta-skill’ of the 21st century.
Her groundbreaking research has shown the successful outcome of pretty much everything we do in life – including work – will depend on the level of our self-awareness.
It’s particularly important in the areas of communication, influence, and collaboration. We can only be as good at those skills as we are self-aware. This is why leaders, especially, should focus on levelling up their self-awareness.
Another study by Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations of 72 senior executives found a high self-awareness score was the strongest predictor for a leader’s overall success.
A few benefits of increased self-awareness, not just for leaders but for everyone, include –
- The ability to communicate with more clarity
- Better self-management and self-control of emotions
- Clearer purpose and direction
- Better decision-making skills
- More empathy for others – and yourself
- Improved relationships
- More confidence
- Increased transparency and honesty about who you are
How to be more self-aware at work
Know your emotional kryptonite – what triggers you?
Are you aware of your triggers? What gets you stressed, angry or defensive?
Knowing your triggers is a big part of self-awareness. When you know what pushes your buttons you’re able to respond with a cooler, calmer head when those issues come up.
It also helps you prepare for situations where you know there’s a good chance someone or something is going to push those buttons.
Knee jerk reactions and responding explosively to triggers will only ratchet up the stress levels of a situation – for you and your teammates.
Know your go-to stress buster…and use it
It’s also important to know how to reduce your stress too. You handled the button-pushing with a calm front – well done! – but you’re probably still feeling it on the inside. What’s your favourite way to relieve stress? Running, a deep breathing session or a walk around the block? Go do that thing.
Self-awareness also means taking care of yourself and not bottling up stressful situations up on the inside.
Ask for feedback
How often do you deliberately seek out feedback about yourself?
Asking for honest feedback isn’t always easy to do but it will definitely take your self-awareness to the next level.
Discuss your strengths and weaknesses with a few people in your workplace – team members, your boss and even a colleague outside your immediate team. Choose people who have your best interests at heart because they want to see you grow and will be completely honest with you.
Ask them what they think your best qualities are and where you can improve. Where possible, ask for specific examples of times you’ve supported or hindered a situation.
Take the feedback you receive graciously and stay neutral. There is no need to defend yourself, know there is positive intent on the part of each person giving feedback.
A professional coach will also provide invaluable feedback that can enhance your self-awareness and help you unravel and act on feedback provided by others.
Take a personality test for guidance
A personality test is designed to reveal aspects of your character or psychological makeup – your personality.
They’re not necessarily 100% accurate but taking a test like Myers-Briggs is a good opportunity to reflect on your decision making, behaviours, and attitude.
A test can give you some direction and help you get a bit clearer on your strengths as well as identify your weaknesses which is key to developing more self-awareness.
Learn a new skill
It’s easy to get set in our ways.
We get comfortable because we do the same things over and over again. The problem with this is it can foster narrow thinking and a closed mind.
By only doing the easy things, we can lull ourselves into a false sense of thinking we know how things work.
Challenge this by learning a new skill and switching on your ‘beginners mind’ to help cultivate flexibility and push yourself out of your comfort zone. You’ll develop a deeper level of self-awareness in the process by paying attention to how you respond to new challenges.
Jot your reflections down in a journal
This doesn’t need to be a long arduous task. Spending just a few minutes each day jotting down your reflections of the day helps clarify your thoughts, feelings, and behaviour. It also helps you work through problems and keep focused on your priorities.
If you’re not sure where to begin, get started by writing out when you felt most positive and energised during the day and when you felt the most negative. Reflect on why for each point.
Daily journaling has been an important habit for many of the world’s most successful people including Thomas Edison, John D.Rockefeller, Benjamin Franklin, Louisa May Alcott and even as far back as the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius.
Trying a few of these tips to improve your awareness will help you develop your leadership skills, enjoy the environment you work in and boost your career success in the long-term.