Every coach and self-improvement guru will tell you it is important to understand your own values and goals; your why. Without self-awareness, we cannot align our values and our choices in life.
In the workplace, there are other benefits to practising self-awareness and reflecting on our impact on others.
When I work with organisational leaders, the starting point for growing their emotional intelligence (EQ) is self-awareness. Once they start to become aware of, and regulate, their own reactions and behaviours they can improve in a whole range of other areas. It’s a real eye-opener.
Self-awareness allows for self-regulation. By understanding what “pushes our buttons” we can actively shape our responses to certain perceived threats. We can leverage our understanding of reward to keep ourselves motivated and productive. Self-awareness allows us to work with our brains, rather than against them – allowing space for reflection, memory creation and innovation.
How self-awareness improves teams
The same applies to leading a team. A self-aware leader is more likely to recognise the domains of threat and reward as they apply to their team. They know how to communicate in a way that addresses the concerns and aspirations of the whole team. They assign work and manage projects in a way that fosters collaboration and creativity. Most importantly a self-aware leader is open to, and actively seeks, feedback from the team and views this as a chance to personally grow and develop. All of these elements shape a culture of openness.
Leaders must also model the behaviours they hope to develop in others. By proactively setting aside time for planning and reflection, and by seeking regular feedback, leaders can demonstrate how to integrate these practices into day-to-day working life.
To become a more effective leader, self-awareness is an essential first step. So, how can you develop self-awareness? Here are a few starting points:
- Know your own values and priorities.
- Seek and consider feedback from others.
- Consider yourself from another’s perspective and seek to understand your impact on others.
- Become aware of your “self-talk (the story you tell yourself about your interactions with the world) and how this can impact your behaviour and mindset.
- Take time to reflect on your actions, reactions, motivations and behaviours.
- Interact with others using a sense of curiosity.
To lead your team with a self-aware mindset, you should also:
- Communicate in a balanced manner, minimising possible threat responses.
- Establish meeting agendas that provide certainty and manage threats to the status and relatedness of your team.
- Develop an inclusive culture where the input of all team members is valued and celebrated.
- Allow time and space for creativity and innovation, acknowledging that “a-ha” moments don’t happen to a schedule.
- Support an open culture where feedback is invited and welcomed.
- Use coaching methodologies to encourage the development of self-awareness in others.