Five Tips to Improve Your Self-Awareness as a Leader

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Self-awareness is a must-have for the modern leader. It is associated with everything from job satisfaction to upward mobility to success in dealing with difficult situations. But what is self-awareness and how can you improve on it?

Improving your self-awareness

In an article about self-awareness by an organizational psychologist and bestselling author, Dr. Tasha Eurich explains that there are two sides to this sought-after skill: internal self-awareness and external self-awareness.

Internal self-awareness represents how clearly “we see our own values, passions, aspirations, fit with our environment, reactions (including thoughts, feelings, behaviors, strengths, and weaknesses)” and their impact on others while external self-awareness is how other people view us on these same factors.

With this concept in mind, here are five ways you can improve this sought-after leadership trait.

1. Get in touch with your emotions and intuition

Learn to trust your intuition in the difficult situations you face as a leader. At the same time, embrace the vulnerabilities that make you uniquely you.

Recognize patterns of behavior that cause you to react. Take a minute to plan better ways to manage these situations when they arise. It might be taking a breath or even a walk. This will allow you to stay in tune with your values which will help you develop the self-awareness needed to lead in difficult situations.

2. Pay attention to how people perceive you

Your actions and the subsequent reactions affect other people in the room. If you feel the need to take your frustrations out for a mistake, consider the effect this will have.

Take time to reflect that you may not be the only person in the room who is navigating a difficult situation. Practicing kindness and patience will go a long way to developing stronger relationships with the people you lead.

Being curious about others’ opinions goes a long way as well. Make sure you express the willingness to work with others and the need to not always be the Number One in the room.

3. Encourage critical feedback, especially if you are powerful

In her article “7 strategies to boost your leadership skills through self-awareness,” Michelle Kankousky notes that the more powerful you are, the more likely you are to over-evaluate your skills and abilities. Counter this inclination by actively surrounding yourself with people who will give you candid feedback.

It takes courage to ask for honest employee feedback. If you show value in this sincere input, you are more likely to encourage more of it. This might provide you with key insights to being even more self-aware.

4. Be your own best colleague and keep a journal

Eurich also recommends you keep a journal about your self-awareness journey, stating, “Your journal is a great resource for you to chronicle your experiences and see your progress.”

Be honest about how you did in certain situations. How did you react or feel when you were faced with a challenge or special meeting? Are there things that you might learn from interactions with a certain employee? Try to give yourself the same critical and honest feedback you would seek from your most valued ally.

5. Move forward with “what” not “why”

When practicing self-awareness, you should ask “what” and not “why” questions. “What questions help us stay objective, future-focused, and empowered to act on our new insights,” says Eurich.

For example, she recommends that instead of focusing on why a person might have said a negative comment, ask yourself what you might do differently next time.

Your time is better spent focusing on solutions and not on the “unproductive patterns of the past,” she contends.

Set boundaries, even with self-awareness 

Self-awareness has its place and those advocating it encourage you to practice it as much as possible. And while it is important to find this time for self-reflection, constantly spending time reflecting on the past or worrying about the future does not assist you. Be sure to stay in the here and now since that is where you can be most effective.

As with everything, be sure to keep balance in your life.

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  • Senior Technical Writer, Writing Department, CU*Answers

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