The importance of self-awareness for effective business leadership cannot be overly emphasized. The MIT Sloan Management Review reported that a survey of the Stanford Graduate School of Business Advisory Council listed self-awareness as the most important capability for business leaders to develop. When business leaders have a clear idea of their personal strengths and weaknesses, as well as their personality and their emotional reactions, they are better positioned to connect with employees and engage with clients in a meaningful way. People who do not take the time to work on self-awareness may not understand the impressions that they leave and could mistakenly offend someone. Self-awareness also helps individuals compensate for their weaknesses or understand situations in which their emotions may run high so that they can stay in control.
While the benefits of self-awareness may seem obvious, the fact remains that not many business leaders demonstrate a mastery of this skill. According to the Hay Group Research, fewer than 1 in 5 female executives exhibited self-awareness while only 1 in 25 male executives did. Read on for some important tips to keep in mind for boosting self-awareness.
Ask for feedback
You build self-awareness when you start to learn how you look in the eyes of the individuals around you. Business leaders cannot see the blind spots of self-awareness without seeking feedback. These blind spots may include reactions, behaviors, beliefs, or mindsets that other people pick up on and use to interpret actions. You cannot become an effective leader unless you become aware of these blind spots.
Feedback can come from many different sources and, importantly, individuals in different relationships may form different impressions. For that reason, it can be helpful to ask for feedback from employees, colleagues, and clients. In addition, some people may find getting feedback from a therapist helpful in building self-awareness.
Reflect on the self regularly
To build self-awareness, you need to take the time to get to know yourself more fully than you currently do. The best way to achieve this is by setting a little bit of time aside regularly for self-reflection. You should look back on the day and figure out why you did and said what you did. Figuring out motivation is not always as obvious as it may seem. While doing this, you should pay special attention to emotional peaks to figure out what may set you off in the future.
Another strategy that you may use is feedback analysis. This provides a long-term view of strengths and weaknesses. When you make a major decision, you should write down your expectations and revisit it about a year down the line to compare it with what actually happened. Warren Buffett used a similar practice to see the patterns in his thinking.
Use tests to create a framework
Before embarking on a journey of change, you need to have a baseline. A great way to establish a baseline in terms of self-awareness involves taking personality tests like the Myers-Briggs, StrengthsFinder, and the Predictive Index. While these tests have become popular in recent years, you should view them as tools and not put too much stock into them; however, they can still instigate some self-reflection. For example, if the tests return a result that does not seem to align with how you have previously seen yourself, you can think of what responses might have caused that result and how this discrepancy manifests in business transactions. You may also use the results to start conversations with people for honest feedback. If the feedback reinforces what the test says, this may signal a new area for growth.
Pay attention to external and internal factors
Self-awareness involves understanding what triggers you to react a certain way. These triggers could be external, such as someone exhibiting aggressive behavior, or internal, such as exhaustion. As you start to pay attention to your behaviors and thoughts, you will start to see patterns that can help you to gain better self-control in the future. The mark of a business leader who has mastered self-control is someone who can edit his or her personality depending on the circumstances. Self-awareness does not mean evoking a complete personality shift but rather understanding outlier behaviors and when they are likely to occur. In some situations, these outlier behaviors may actually be beneficial. In others, these reactions could sever important business relationships. With better self-awareness, you will start to understand when and how to edit.
Nurture a healthy sense of curiosity
As you become exposed to new people, cultures, and situations, your reactions may also change. In other words, self-awareness is not something that you achieve once. Self-awareness must be maintained. The best way to maintain self-awareness is simply to stay curious. When something happens out of the ordinary or you surprise yourself with how you react, it is not enough to shrug it off and forget about it. The best leaders ask why this situation was different and what has changed internally or externally to cause a different reaction.