How often do we hear of a business that values self-awareness amongst its leaders and actively promotes feedback?

Research carried out by the Korn Ferry Institute in 2013 found that “companies with higher rates of return on stock also have employees with few personal blind spots,” in other words, they evidenced a correlation between self-awareness in leaders and overall financial performance.

We are commonly driven as leaders to focus on our team and individuals.  What do we do to engage them and take them forward with us in driving competitive advantage?  The management of change and improvements in organisational performance.  In doing these vital things we often overlook ourselves as the leader.  The importance of self-awareness and the impact that this has on business performance.  One of the best things a leader can do to be more effective is to develop self-awareness.  In this way, they become aware of what drives them and their decision-making.

Strengths and Weaknesses

If we know our strengths, we can apply them in the right situations.  We can know when to draw on the strengths of others within the team.

If we know what our weaknesses are and recognise our emotions in particular circumstances.  We can acknowledge these and stop ourselves from reacting inappropriately to a situation.

Being self-aware enables us to be more realistic about ourselves and our judgments and in turn, others trust and respect us for this, the converse is that when we lack self-awareness we appear less credible because others are more aware of our strengths and weaknesses than we are ourselves.

Being self-aware enables us to balance our conviction with humility; creating our vision but being willing to listen to new ideas and other opinions actively.

So what can we do to try and develop our self-awareness?

Here are 4 ideas on this:

1. Use personality tests to understand your traits

Whilst tests such as the Myers-Briggs and SHL Personality Test are not perfect, they do help you to reflect on your attitude, behaviours, characteristics and what drives your decision-making and so become more self-aware.

2. Use professional help

A good coach can be invaluable in providing you with feedback that will enhance your level of self-awareness. Make sure you check out their credentials and certifications first though and be certain they can work with you in the way that you want them to.  A good coach can also help you to unravel feedback from others and use it to help you to change.

3. Keep a note of yourself

It can be helpful when you make an important decision to make a note of what you expect the result to be; what do you think is going to happen? At an appropriate time, go back to your notes and compare what did happen with what you expected to happen. Don’t just think about ‘what’ happened, make sure you also reflect on ‘why’ it happened.  Management Consultant Peter Drucker called this reflective activity ‘feedback analysis’:  “the only way to discover your strengths.”

4. Ask someone else

Identify people you know and feel you can trust and ask them to give you feedback on your personality, habits, needs, and values.  It may be helpful to ask people to provide you with this feedback anonymously so that they are more likely, to be honest, and provide a valid response that is insightful and helpful.

Remember it is not just by accident that the starting point for those going through rehabilitation are encouraged to be self-aware and acknowledge that they have a problem; the same principles of ‘know thyself’ apply in leadership too.

Ways To Unlock Self-Awareness

Everyone is different and not everyone can unlock self-awareness in the same way.  Here are some methods you can use to see what works for you.

1. Journaling: Unlock Your Inner Thoughts

Begin your journey with journaling. It’s a powerful tool for self-reflection. Write daily. Keep entries short and focused. Capture your feelings, thoughts, and experiences. Research shows journaling increases mindfulness and emotional intelligence. As Virginia Woolf said, “I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.”

2. Meditation: Cultivate Mindful Awareness

Embrace meditation. It’s not just a trend; it’s a practice backed by science. Start with just five minutes a day. Focus on your breath. Notice your thoughts without judgment. Studies link meditation to greater self-awareness and reduced stress. As per a Harvard study, meditation rebuilds the brain’s grey matter in eight weeks.

3. Feedback Loops: Embrace Constructive Criticism

Seek feedback actively. Use it to understand how others perceive you. Construct feedback loops with peers or mentors. Ask specific questions. Listen more than you speak. Implement the advice you receive. Forbes highlights that feedback is crucial for personal development and leadership skills.

4. Personality Tests: Discover Your Traits

Take personality tests like Myers-Briggs or Enneagram. They offer insights into your behavioural patterns. Understand your strengths and weaknesses. Use the results as a starting point for growth. The American Psychological Association notes that personality assessments can lead to better self-understanding and career success.

5. Mindfulness Apps: Technology for Self-Discovery

Utilize mindfulness apps like Headspace or Calm. They provide guided sessions for reflection. Track your progress. Use them to build a habit of daily mindfulness. The Journal of Medical Internet Research found that app-based mindfulness practice can significantly improve well-being.

Professional Coaching: Gain Expert Guidance

Invest in professional coaching. A coach offers personalized strategies for self-improvement. They hold you accountable. Choose a certified coach with good reviews. The International Coaching Federation shows coaching enhances self-confidence and improves work performance.

6. Reading: Learn From Others’ Insights

Read extensively. Books on personal development offer valuable lessons. Authors like Brené Brown and Eckhart Tolle have transformed lives. Brown’s research on vulnerability shows its power in achieving self-awareness. Tolle’s teachings on presence have made “The Power of Now” a guide for millions seeking self-awareness.

7. Physical Exercise: Strengthen Body and Mind

Incorporate physical exercise. It’s not just for your body but also your mind. Regular exercise improves mood and clarity of thought. The American Psychological Association confirms that exercise can boost your mood and cognitive function.

8. Social Connections: Reflect Through Relationships

Nurture social connections. Relationships are mirrors that reflect our true selves. Engage in deep conversations. Listen to understand, not to respond. The Harvard Study of Adult Development suggests strong relationships are the key to happiness and self-awareness.

9. Goal Setting: Chart Your Personal Growth

Set clear, achievable goals. They guide your growth journey. Break them down into actionable steps. Review and adjust as needed. The practice of goal setting is linked to higher motivation and self-confidence, according to the Journal of Clinical Psychology.

10. Creative Hobbies: Express and Explore

Engage in creative hobbies. Activities like painting, writing, or music allow self-expression. They reveal inner desires and fears. The American Journal of Public Health reviewed studies showing that engagement in the arts is associated with increased self-discovery and emotional well-being.

11. Time Alone: Embrace Solitude

Spend time alone. Solitude is essential for self-reflection. Use this time to think, plan, and dream. Psychology Today states that solitude can lead to significant self-discovery and internal peace.

By integrating these tools into your life, you can embark on a path of self-awareness that leads to personal growth and fulfilment. Remember, the journey is ongoing, and every step offers a new opportunity for discovery.

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