Ninety-five percent of people think they are self-aware, but only 10-15 percent actually are. It is a hard truth to swallow, but that only means growth is ahead.
When leaders are self-aware, they know what emotions and feelings drive their behaviors and actions. Their ability to recognize these emotions and feelings can help them understand what drives their team members and how to effectively lead them.
In this two-part article series, you will learn about the complexity of self-awareness, tips for becoming self-aware, how to cultivate that kind of culture for your team, and how self-awareness correlates with overall company performance.
Self-awareness is powerful… and complex
Building and achieving self-awareness is complex. People need to understand who they are internally and externally, meaning that they know who they are and how others see them.
Internal self-awareness is about how clearly you understand your values, aspirations, thoughts, feelings, behaviors, strengths, weaknesses, and impact on others. External self-awareness is about how others view you in relation to themselves.
Leaders who see themselves as their employees do, tend to have better relationships with their employees. The employees feel more satisfied with the leader and see them as more effective in general.
One size doesn’t fit all, though! You can have high internal and low external self-awareness or vice versa. There are four archetypes – Introspectors, Seekers, the Aware, and Pleasers.
- Introspectors have high internal and low external self-awareness. They know who they are through self-reflection and feel confident about what they know. You won’t often find an Introspector challenging their own views or asking others for feedback. This can negatively impact their relationships and limit their success.
- Seekers have both low internal and external self-awareness. They don’t know who they are, what they stand for, and how their team members perceive them. They can feel stagnant or frustrated with their relationships and performance.
- The Aware have both high internal and external self-awareness. They know who they are and what they want to achieve and actively seek out and value others’ opinions. When leaders become this archetype, they fully recognize the true benefits of self-awareness.
- Pleasers have low internal and high external self-awareness. Pleasers can be too focused on their appearance and how they want to come across. They can overlook what matters to them and who they are. Often, this results in them making decisions that don’t support their success and self-worth.
One reason why ninety-five percent of people think they are self-aware is because of the imbalance between internal and external self-awareness. The key is not to value one type more than the other. We need to actively work on both so we can see ourselves clearly and understand how our peers see us.
Experience and power can hinder external self-awareness
The more power a leader holds, the more they will overestimate their skills and abilities and not seek feedback needed for external self-awareness. This could happen because senior leaders have fewer people above them to provide candid feedback, and the more power a leader holds, the less comfortable some are giving constructive feedback. Here’s the catch, though – people need feedback to help match their internal view with the external view.
Leaders can prevent this from happening by gaining feedback from “loving” critics to improve their external self-awareness. Loving critics are people that have your best interests in mind and are willing to be honest. If you want candid feedback:
- Do not wait for it. Ask for it. Ask your team and those “loving critics” what you could do better to support their success. Encourage others to share feedback by asking for it regularly, listening openly, and above all, thanking them.
- Assume positive intent. When people come to you, give them the benefit of the doubt. Assume they are not there to judge or manipulate you but to improve you. If you want them to trust you, you need to trust them!
Introspection does not always improve self-awareness
You’d think introspection leads to self-awareness, but most people do it wrong. Understanding the reasons behind a particular behavior or reaction takes objectivity– easier said than done when our life events and self-esteem can drive us to the wrong conclusions. Instead of letting your inner critic answer the introspecting questions, consider replacing “Why?” with “What?”. Research has found that highly self-aware people ask themselves “why” less than 150 times but ask themselves “what” more than 1000 times. For example, instead of asking why something happened, ask yourself, “What are the steps I need to take in the future to do a better job?”
Self-awareness is the bedrock of emotional intelligence that lets you see your talents, motivations, potential, and shortcomings, but it takes continuous effort. Our experiences, culture, self-worth, peers, and backgrounds influence who we are. It is up to us to take responsibility for who we wish to continually become. New circumstances and change are bound to happen, so to understand your true self, stay curious and do not stop seeking to understand yourself.
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