<A HREF="http://ws.amazon.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&amp;MarketPlace=US&amp;ID=V20070822%2FUS%2Fdigicast-20%2F8005%2Fe60347da-2350-4d6c-855d-687e2e827f10&amp;Operation=NoScript">Amazon.com Widgets
Back to blog

Four Important Steps to Improve Leadership Self-Awareness

Recently, one of the biggest complaints that I have been hearing about leaders is how a lack of self-awareness is impacting their performance.  Employees complain about leaders who are totally oblivious to how their behaviours, words and actions create distrust and frustration amongst those around them.

In fact, a study by Carter Cast to uncover why managers and leaders had been fired, demoted or had plateaued in their careers revealed that the culprit was personal blind spots.  Leaders who were unaware of weaknesses in their interpersonal behaviour, and were unwilling, when confronted with evidence, to make adjustments.

In general, human beings aren’t very self-aware. But – they think they are. Dr Tash Eurich, in her book, Insight, found that even though most people believe they are self-aware, only 10-15% of the people she studied actually fit the criteria.
We are biologically programmed to look out into the world to see if we can trust what’s going on. But we aren’t designed to look at ourselves to see whether we are behaving in a trustworthy manner. This is why an unaware leader has no idea how their behaviours are creating distrust.
Dr Eurich discovered that self-aware people have two types of knowledge – internal and external self-awareness. Internal self-awareness is knowing who we are, what makes us tick and our patterns of behaviour over time. While external self-awareness is about understanding how other people see us.  These are all key drivers of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence (the ability to know and manage yourself and others) is a key driver of success in leadership.

Often, I mentor well-meaning leaders who receive poor trust results from their direct reports and peers.  They feel hurt and betrayed by their 360-degree ratings failing to understand how their behaviours have led to such a result. These leaders tend to be low in not only internal self-awareness, but also external. Over time, I help them understand how their behaviours are unintentionally creating trust issues.

So how do you improve your level of self-awareness?
1. Take stock of where you are now - The fastest way to grow as a leader is to be honest with your abilities now, in order to make improvements.  Getting access to information that is not overly subjective helps.  This can be in the form of assessments, personality tests and talking to those around us.  360-degree surveys can be extremely useful, as well as asking people that we trust to provide us with specific feedback on how we are going.  I'm also going to be controversial and throw in astrology, numerology and even getting a tarot card reading as being insightful for learning about ourselves. 
2. Learn how to accept feedback - For many of us, our default reaction to feedback is to make excuses, blame others or just send out defensive body language.  It is probably not surprising that the second complaint I hear about leaders is that they are defensive when receiving feedback.  Sometimes they are even oppositional about negative comments made about their direct reports.   Learning how to receive feedback is an important leadership (and life) skill.  It's also a sign of someone with a growth mindset and emotional maturity.
3. Journal - Keeping a diary, writing down our feelings or keeping a gratitude diary are forms of self-reflection that provide us with powerful insights about ourselves.  Journalling helps us get clear on what we are experiencing and even works to reduce our stress levels. Asking ourselves questions and pondering our situation provides us with deep insights about ourselves.  Choosing to make journaling a regular habit is a powerful leadership behaviour.
4. Get a coach or see a therapist - To really understand our self-defeating behaviours getting a coach or even a therapist can be extremely useful.  Use a coach to give you specific business capabilities/techniques or use a therapist to help you breakthrough childhood traumas or fixed mindsets.
5. Learn to say sorry - Owning our mistakes and apologising is what a self-aware leader has the courage to do.  Being humble makes it much easier for others to be around us. 

to improve our self-awareness working with a mix of both internal and external self-awareness techniques is best.  External being receiving feedback from others and taking stock of assessment results.  While internal self-awareness is boosted through journaling, yoga, meditation and talking to a coach or therapist.

Whatever you do - don't think this is not important.  A lack of self-awareness will not only negatively impact your career, but your relationships as well.

Research indicates that those who have an inflated sense of their own skills and who understate these interpersonal issues are six times more likely to fail than those with accurate self-awareness. 

But not only that, when we lack self-awareness we really do fall into the narcissism camp.  Narcissists are unable to see their faults and spend most of their time defending their actions, talking about how great they are and pushing their own agenda.  Narcissists make terrible leaders.  So if you know that you're not a narcissist, then do what you can to improve your self awareness.  Your people will thank you for it!


New call-to-action