Do You Need a Self-Awareness Tune Up?

“If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.” - Daniel Goleman

I write and speak a lot about self-awareness because I believe it is one of the most fundamental skills that everyone should possess, and it is not only for those in leadership positions.

Everything that makes a great leader comes from a healthy sense of self-awareness, whether it’s the ability to outline a grand organizational vision or simply the ability to organize and run a meeting efficiently.

Unfortunately, our minds can sometimes work against our ability to be self-aware, especially when we’re stressed, busy or taking on too much at once. 

Self-awareness is a quality that requires continuous effort, improvement and sharpening, which is another reason why I write and speak about it so frequently. Even I feel the need to tune back in on my own level of self-awareness sometimes, and it is not always easy. That is why I have decided to outline some of the signs that indicate when your self-awareness might be slipping, and provide some tips to help you get back on track. 

By noticing these signs, it becomes possible to check in with oneself honestly and authentically to make the appropriate corrections and tweaks. It may feel difficult or awkward at first, but if you exercise it like a muscle, it will seem less like a workout and more like an essential aspect of your well-being.

What Is Self-Awareness and Why is it So Important?

The dictionary defines self-awareness as “an awareness of one’s own personality or individuality.” I would define it as the inner knowledge of one’s own preferences, instincts, desires and feelings, combined with an understanding of how others perceive us. It is about being in tune with who you are and showing up in the most powerful way so you can positively influence others in a way that will be meaningful to them based on their needs. It is also about understanding what other people’s perceptions are and being able to balance both internal and external perspectives in a positive way that ensures you balance the needs of both to be effective. 

Self-awareness has become a business buzzword, which might lead many to believe that it’s just the latest fad in leadership development. But if you look at successful leaders over time, it’s apparent that the most effective leaders are self-aware, even before Daniel Goleman brought the concept to life. 

Abraham Lincoln, for example, understood his strengths as well as his weaknesses, which led him to create a cabinet that’s been described as a “team of rivals.” Lincoln was self-aware enough to understand that he didn’t possess all the answers and that his ability to lead would be strengthened considerably by a team of advisors made up of individuals with wide-ranging viewpoints, skills, and perspectives.

Sadly, while a large percentage of leaders would describe themselves as self-aware, only a small number of them demonstrate it consistently. And it’s often those who are most confident about their self-awareness who are, in fact, the least self-aware.

Are you in Need of a Tune-up?

If you are concerned that your self-awareness may be slipping away, take comfort in the fact that you are here reading this — your interest in the topic is a positive sign that the spark of self-awareness within you is still glowing.

However, if you suspect that something internally may be causing a decline in your ability to lead, there are some signs you can look for to determine if you need a self-awareness tune up:

People Are Afraid of You

When leaders lack self-awareness, they can compensate by becoming bullies. Feelings of fear or inadequacy get squashed and replaced by domineering tactics directed at others. They don’t want others to see weakness, so they compensate by being overbearing.

You Start Making Excuses

Avoiding, deflecting and blaming are classic defense mechanisms employed by those who lack self-awareness. Leaders who fail to accept responsibility by playing the blame game need to look inside themselves instead of looking at others.

You Are Overambitious

A lack of self-awareness can lead to over-the-top behaviors, plans and declarations. Leaders use this grandiosity to convince people that they have everything under control and are engaged in impressive, visionary endeavors. But the truth is that perhaps they are too scared to confront the reality inside themselves.

People Notice Changes in Your Behavior

When leaders aren’t centered by a sense of self-awareness, their behavior can become inconsistent. Their moods change without acknowledgment, which leads to wildly erratic approaches to work and leadership. People may not say anything about these behavior changes, but their body language and attitude toward leadership will tell the story.

You Are Micromanaging

Leaders who focus too much on the little things are usually scared to confront the big issues in their organizations. A lack of self-awareness removes the confidence leaders would otherwise have in prioritizing, delegating and focusing on what really matters.

How to Get Back on Track with Your Self-Awareness

If you’ve noticed any of the above signs or you simply want to ensure that you keep your self-awareness muscles strong, here are some tips you can employ to make sure you remain connected to the truth about yourself:

  • Practice Mindfulness If you can take time to meditate, monitor your emotions and listen without judgment to your internal monologue, you will strengthen your self-awareness considerably.
  • Take Note of Your Emotions — Letting emotions just come and go without acknowledging them is a sure way to lose your edge of self-awareness. Instead, work to stay in tune with your emotions as they arise and find the language to describe them accurately to yourself. When you do this, you remove the chance that your emotions will begin to take control of your actions.
  • Distance Yourself — As you go about your day, take time to narrate your activities and thoughts in the third person. Describe yourself to yourself as if you are reading about the actions of a character in a novel. This small bit of separation can make you aware of thoughts, emotions and actions and you can quickly hit the rest button to get you refocused and back on track. 
  • Write it Down — Journaling is a terrific way to keep track of what’s happening within you. The act of writing connects you with what’s inside your mind, strengthening your awareness. And when you read through your journal’s entries, you can become more aware of patterns and tendencies that impact your thinking and behavior.
  • Ask for Feedback – Seek out insights on how others are perceiving you, both formally and informally to get a balanced perspective. 360 tools can be effective, but we always encourage in-person honest and open feedback to be the most effective.
  • Work with a Coach – To gain another third-party outsider view on how you might be showing up in the workplace and how to enhance your performance and self-awareness. They will bring in tools and resources to help you enhance your level of self-awareness and overall success.

How Do You Maintain Your Self Awareness?

Self-awareness is critically important in leadership as your behavior impacts the behavior of others that you lead and influence. The hard part is that it is not always easy to maintain and stay in tune throughout every moment of our busy days. Have you struggled with self-awareness? How did you notice you lost focus and perspective? What did you do to get back on track?  Was your performance impacted as a result?

Let me know what you think by connecting with me at joanne.trotta@leadersedgeinc.ca or reach out to chat at 1-855-871-3374, we would love to hear from you!

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