Self-awareness sounds like some new age, kumbaya, talk show topic. As an aspiring man’s man, my low sensitivity level has not always allowed me to consider things like self-awareness. But, obviously I have or I would not have been able to write that last sentence…
Self-awareness is a critical element for the success of a leader. As a leader, if I do not recognize who I am and how I affect other people, I will never reach my potential.
Self-awareness is not just recognizing what I do well. I have interviewed hundreds upon hundreds of people who are always ready to discuss what they do well. But, when asked about weaknesses, they stumble.
Self-awareness is like a good Clint Eastwood movie. You need to recognize the good, the bad and the ugly.
I went through a training session the other day called Situational Self-Leadership. The trainer taught us that real awareness comes in two parts: Awareness and Acceptance.
Spending time examining myself can only take me so far. Unfortunately, most of us are unable to see ourselves clearly. We either believe in ourselves way too much or way too little.
Awareness – Objective Feedback
I always recommend a validated personality profiling system like DISC or Strengthfinders to give people an objective view of themselves. I offer the DISC on my website for anyone interested: Click here for DISC.
Awareness – What Others See
Subjective feedback is just that, subjective. It can be full of bias and personal agendas. However, I believe I can always find some truth inside those biases and personal agendas.
As a leader, how people perceive me is their reality. Their reality will determine whether they follow me or not.
Some 360 degree leadership surveys are helpful and some are not. I prefer to just ask people to answer a few questions. The information I’ve gathered through the years has helped me tremendously.
- What is it like to be on the receiving end of me?
- What is the thing I do that enhances this team the most?
- What is the thing I do that detracts from this team the most?
- What is one thing you wish I would start doing?
- What is one thing you wish I would stop doing?
- What is one thing you wish I would continue doing?
- What are my blind spots? What don’t I see?
I listed a variety of questions anyone can use to gather information about the perceptions of others. WARNING: I have not always liked the answers to these questions.
But, if I ask people who I trust to give me an honest assessment, then I have taken my first step towards self-awareness. Remember, I need to trust they will give me their honest opinion, not the opinion they think I want to hear.
Once I have received both the objective feedback of a personality profile and the subjective feedback of individuals around me, my work is just beginning.
I now must have the courage and the humility to accept the answers I have been given.
The trouble with most people is they would rather be ruined by praise then saved by criticism.
-Norman Vincent Peale
I once had a leader ask me for an honest assessment of his leadership. I opened up and was honest with where I thought he was falling short.
Unfortunately, he reacted by discounting what I said and making excuses for his actions. That leader lost me as a follower that day.
I was encouraged to climb out on a limb to help him. Once I was out there, he sawed it off. But, I learned something from that weak leader.
I learned that if I ask for feedback, I had better be ready to accept what I hear. I may not always agree, but I need to accept it as that person’s perception.
What If They Are Wrong About Me?
I had a group of peers one time who believed I was a suck up. They believed I was always working toward a promotion. They were wrong. But, right or wrong does not matter.
I had set up these perceptions because I was being a poor communicator. Telling them they were wrong was not enough to change their perceptions. I realized it was my responsibility to change those perceptions by changing my actions.
If the people I lead have inaccurate perceptions of me, I am the one responsible for changing those perceptions. Words are weak. My actions must change.
All of us must be willing to change. Someone unwilling to change is dealing with a character issue.
I am not proposing a leader shifts back and forth based on every piece of feedback received. Not all feedback is helpful or pertinent.
But, when I ask for the feedback and it comes from a person who I know is giving me their honest opinion, I need to take it seriously.
If a consistent theme emerges in these conversations with those I lead, then I must be willing to address it and grow.
The Bottom Line:
The Situational Self-Leadership trainer shared a study with the group. The study divided the subjects based on their IQ. One group had average IQ scores and the other scored high on IQ tests.
Who did they find to be most successful? The number of successful people were equal in each group. So what determined their success?
No matter what their IQ test scores were, the people who achieved success in their work lives were more self-aware than the less successful people.
They knew who they were. They accepted those facts. And they were willing to adapt. It wasn’t intelligence that made them successful. It was self-awareness.
As a leader, I must be willing to grow. Methods for discovering where I need to grow are available to me. I just need to ask the questions, accept the answers and be willing to make the changes.
Who would give you an honest assessment of your leadership? Will you accept their answers?