A theme running through my work is the idea of leaders and managers need to have self-awareness. Self-awareness means being able to recognize emotions that you experience, understand the feelings associated with the emotion, and understand what you think and do as a result. It also means understanding the impact you have on others.
Self-awareness is cornerstone of emotional intelligence. Before be aware of others emotions, you must first be aware of what you are feeling and experiencing. In executive presence, it is the focus on “How I am being perceived?” In inclusion, it is the self-awareness of ones on beliefs, culture and values. And as a coach, managers need to have strong awareness of what is happening within themselves to be most effective giving feedback to others.
Becoming self-aware is a journey. We can spend our entire lives learning about ourselves. The great news is as we improve self-awareness, we also improve our experience of life. We can create opportunities for better work-life balance, become aware of our emotions, and improve our ability to respond to change.
So how does one develop that self-awareness?
There are great self-assessments that can help you reflect on your actions and build awareness. 360 assessments provide you input from others on how they perceive you. If you have the opportunity to take one of these types of assessments I encourage you to do so.
I believe that people who are the most self-aware plan to put time aside to build that awareness. One way to do this is to meditate or reflect daily. This means that you plan to create a quiet space for yourself in the day, away from work or other activities, and spend time focusing on doing something that opens your mind to deeper thoughts.
Breathing is another powerful tool to help develop your awareness. In is book “Peace in Every Step” Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh writes “Breathing is the link between our body and our mind…by concentrating on our breathing, in and out, we can bring body and mind back together…” Practicing breathing techniques helps to quiet your mind and gain inner perspective. It also is a great way to eliminate stress and toxins that have built up in the body and the mind.
Some additional tips for expanding your self-awareness include:
- Know your strengths. Self-aware individuals know what they are good at and use those strengths as tools to leverage.
- Be aware of your emotional triggers. Keep a diary of what “sets you off”. Seek to understand why so that you can eliminate the reaction to the triggers when they happen.
- Listen to your inner voice. Trust your instincts and intuition. Learn to trust them and use them.
- Be curious. Seek to understand why you think, believe or act in certain situations. Don’t judge these, but rather, strive to understand the “why”. Acknowledge your beliefs, thoughts and actions, not as good or bad, right or wrong but as a source of information that help you gain self-awareness.
Developing self-awareness is a process and does not happen overnight. Yet, becoming more self-awareness can help you be a better leader, partner and enjoy life more fully.