How to develop self awareness in the workplace

How to develop self awareness in the workplace

When you think about business leaders you respect and like, whether those in the public eye or your own bosses, they may possess a host of qualities such as confidence and self-assurance.

They may well have a host of personal attributes and skills you and others really admire. But like any other human being, they realistically won’t be good at everything. They would, however, have a strong sense of self-awareness; they know their strengths and weaknesses and how to manage these.

How often do we hear of a business that values self-awareness amongst its leaders and actively promotes feedback?

Research carried out by the Korn Ferry Institute in 2013 found that “companies with higher rates of return on stock also have employees with few personal blind spots.” In other words they noticed and appreciated the correlation between self-awareness in their leaders and their overall success.

We are commonly driven as leaders to focus on the development of individuals and our team – what we do to engage them and take them forward with us. But in doing these vital things we often overlook ourselves as the leader.

If we know what our strengths are, we can apply them in the right situations and know when to draw on the strengths of others.

Being self-aware enables us to be more realistic about ourselves and the judgement we make and in turn others trust and respect this humility and lack of ego. Your wider workforce is more likely to respect and admire a leader who acknowledges where their strengths and weaknesses lie and who is diplomatic enough to ask for ideas and guidance from experts within the team.

So what can we do to try and develop our self-awareness?  Here are our top tips:

  1. Learn from your experiences

We find out what our strengths and weaknesses are through experiences, whether they’re good or bad. If something went particularly well or spectacularly badly at work, it’s worth taking some time to analyse why. This will help give you confidence in the skills and attributes which make you successful at what you do and help you identify your weaknesses.

  1. Embrace your failures

Acknowledging the things we are bad at can feel really unsettling, awkward and in itself a sign of weakness. But even leaders need to be able to identify what skills or personal attributes they lack to be able to grow and be better. Being self-aware about what we need to continue to learn may be a humbling experience but necessary. Don’t be afraid to embrace your weaknesses.

  1. Ask others for feedback

Identify people you trust and ask them to give you feedback about your strengths and weaknesses. This could simply be about your professional attributes, but also your personal ones too. It may be helpful to ask people to provide you with this feedback anonymously as they are more likely to be honest, insightful and helpful. Don’t take it personally! It can be incredibly hard to hear what people think about you, so you need to ensure you take any comments constructively and in the spirit they’re meant so you can continue to develop and change people’s perceptions.

  1. Use personality tests to guide you

Tests such as Myers-Briggs and the SHL Personality Test may not necessarily be accurate or reveal what you expect them to, but they can help you to reflect on your attitude, behaviours, characteristics and what drives your decision making.  This will help you become more self-aware.

  1. Develop a coaching culture

We’ve all had inspiring teachers and mentors who have made a lasting impression on us. Employing people who are passionate about helping their colleagues succeed is essential if you want to embed a coaching culture into your business. And as a business leader, you should continue to be on board with this to – learning never stops! A good coach can be invaluable in providing you with feedback that will enhance your level of self-awareness.  A good coach can also help you to unravel feedback from others and use it to help you to change.

  1. Take time to evaluate yourself

There’s a good reason why writing can be considered therapeutic. If you feel you have hit a particular milestone at work or have made a career-defining decision, it’s wise to make write down what you expect the result to be; what do you think is going to happen?  At an appropriate time, go back to your notes and compare what did happen with what you expected to happen. Don’t just think about ‘what’ happened, make sure you also reflect on ‘why’ it happened.  Management Consultant Peter Drucker called this reflective activity ‘feedback analysis.’

Remember it is not just by accident that the starting point for those going through rehabilitation are encouraged to be self-aware and acknowledge that they have a problem; the same principles of ‘know thyself’ apply in leadership too.

Julie Gordon is Managing Director of cHRysos HR Solutions, a Doncaster based HR training and consultancy company providing CIPD and CMI accredited qualifications and HR Consultancy Services, nationwide and overseas. Contact Julie on or call +44 (0)1302 802128.

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cHRysos HR Solutions are a UK wide HR training and consultancy company offering CIPD accredited qualifications, Apprenticeships, Training and HR Services to SMEs. For more information about how cHRysos HR can help you or your teams successfully achieve further qualifications, contact us on or call 03300 562443.