From self-awareness to self-improvement

What is self-awareness

To better understand what self-awareness is I like to apply to emotional intelligence. It is an ability to recognize our own emotions, understand how they impact others, and manage them in a positive way; as well as recognize the emotions of other people with the ability to communicate effectively and reduce conflicts with them.

Essentially, self-awareness is one of the core components of emotional intelligence:

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Self-regulation
  3. Social skills
  4. Empathy
  5. Motivation

So if I would be working on my emotional intelligence, self-awareness would be the first one to start with. It is impossible to manage my behavior without being aware of my emotions and feelings. And without this connection with how I behave and feel, I doubt the social skills could be on the highest level.

I like to say that self-awareness is one of the most important “survival mechanisms” for a modern person. Not only in business! It’s hard to imagine an area, where communication with others is completely off the table. The more we interact with others, the more we need to understand how others see us. And the more we manage other people, the more our self-awareness is critical.

Self-aware leader

While hard-skills still matter, let’s talk about a leader skillset and what is needed the most to manage people in the best way:

  • Ability to create and communicate mission
  • Setting clear goals and direction
  • Managing complexity
  • Fostering creativity
  • Promote teamwork
  • Flexibility and Speed
  • Focus on the customer

While this list could go longer and longer, I didn’t put self-awareness here. Why? Because I believe self-awareness to be a pre-requisite for successful behavior in the first place.

When we think of the most impactful functions of a leader – to inspire, direct and coordinate other people’s behavior – it seems clear that it’s better to be in tune with our own emotions in the first place. And here is how it appears in reality.

Example 1:

  • There is a strict deadline for a high-priority project. A leader is hosting a meeting with the team and wants to create a sense of urgency on that deadline, which seems to be very hard to meet.
  • We would expect the body language and the message to be aligned with the intent – a firm tone of voice and a posture. We expect a sharp and direct message, with a bit of an inspiration to make the impossible happen.
  • We don’t expect a laid back communication or a non-confident position in the room. It won’t hit the same goal and create a feeling, that there is nothing to worry about and “what happens – happens”.
  • Of course, it might happen that our leader is self-conscious. But the self-awareness is something that helps us act and react according to the situation, as we are aware of how we come off in the eyes of other people.

Example 2:

  • A manager gets the results of a 360 review, with the majority of the team highlighting that she is lacking empathy and is closed off to creative ideas.
  • After discussing the 360 review with a coach, our manager gets to the conclusion that she comes off as rigid, while just trying to build authority with her new team. So she was a little over micro-managing, personally checking incoming ideas from the team members and was always offering her agenda first. With one intent – she wanted her people to see that she is organized, goal-oriented, and knows the business.

In both of the examples being aware of our intentions + aligning them with our behavior + making sure we communicate our intentions in a way that other people understand us right = is the vital set of actions for managing people.

If we would like to list the outcomes of being self-aware, we would see the following.

Outcomes of being self-aware

🌿 We are becoming more proactive. Proactiveness highly correlates with confidence and strong motivation. When we are self-aware, we are more confident to act! Act in alignment with our motivation and will.

🌿 It boosts our acceptance among others. When we are aware of how we come off in the eyes of others and we prove to be in tune with ourselves, it is much easier for other people to accept us for who we are. People know what to expect from me because I behave in tune with my intent. I am genuine in my actions vs emotions!

🌿 It encourages self-development. Self-awareness doesn’t come to us in one day. Self-awareness needs to be practiced! Practiced consistently. It is a loop, which includes self-reflection – action – learning. This is a process that develops us. Constantly.

🌿 It helps us practice self-control. Self-awareness doesn’t cancel the bad emotions forever. We are human beings and we are exposed to the whole range of possible events and we can feel the whole range of emotions. We have the right to feel! But there would be always some situations when we just need to control ourselves, control our emotions and feelings. Practicing self-awareness is like training muscles in a gym. In some time, after practicing with discipline, we will be fit in terms of self-control.

🌿 It makes us better communicators. There is always the purpose of communication. It can be sharing the information, so other people understand it, it could be persuasion, inspiration, call to actions, etc. Being self-aware and communicating in tune with our essential intentions is a core skill for a good communicator.

🌿 Enhance our self-confidence. We could be self-conscious when we are not sure what others think about us. We might think that other people think less of us. Practicing self-awareness includes making reality-checks and collecting feedback from others constantly.

Practicing self-awareness

🌿 Connect with yourself daily

At least once a day ask yourself “what am I feeling right now”? There is such a wide range of human emotion and a regular person usually can’t name even 10 of them.

But it is not the names of emotions, that we are testing here. But making a regular check-in on our emotions and put a name on them is proved to be an effective technique to connect with ourselves better.

🌿 Journaling

For the more organized, who want to improve and grow in the area of self-awareness, journaling is a very good option.

Here is a framework:

  • Make a journaling exercise twice per day: 8 AM and 8 PM each day.
  • Ask yourself a few questions and write down the answer.
  • 8 AM: What do I feel right now? Why do I feel this? How do I think this feeling will affect my day, my communications with others?
  • 8 PM: What do I feel right now? Why do I feel this? How did my feelings affect my day, my communications with others?

When you do the journaling consistently during at least a month, you will see how close you get to understand yourself! You will discover how your feelings trigger your action and how you can change it in the places or scenarios when you get to conflicts or act unproductive or even sometimes destructive to your relationships with others.

🌿 Practice listening

So connecting with yourself and journaling lets us practice reflection, keep a track of our feelings, get a better self-understanding, and a better connection with ourselves. But we are social creatures and how we interact with an environment shapes us also. Therefore we can’t forget about the outside perspective.

And the first skill that we should make our constant is practice active listening. Listen to others like it’s not only the way to understand them but also a way to gain some perspective on us.

It could be that the way other person reacts or speak with me can tell me something about myself also.

Let’s say if I often would hear “I am sorry, can you please repeat. I didn’t understand your question”, it might mean I have to put attention on how clear is my speech.

🌿 Ask for a feedback

The best way to gain a perspective on how others percept me and my behavior is to proactively ask for feedback:

  • By the end of the meeting I am hosting I can ask everyone if everything was clear and what would they recommend me to improve at the next meeting.
  • I would run 360 anonymous surveys, let’s say once per 3-6 months.
  • If I am managing a team, I would ask my people, to give me feedback on my 1-on-1s with everyone.
  • And to be sure that shy people are also heard, I make sure everyone from my team is included in an anonymous feedback survey.

Also, one of the most secure ways to gain feedback is to ask your friends and your family!

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: