Top 10 Tips for... Developing Self Awareness
Use personality tests to understand your personal traits
Whilst tests such as Myers-Briggs and SHL Personality Test are not perfect, they do help you to reflect on your attitude, behaviours, characteristics and what drives your decision making and so become more self-aware.
- Use professional help
A good coach can be invaluable in providing you with feedback that will enhance your level of self-awareness. Make sure you check out their credentials and certifications first though and be certain that they can work with you in the way that you want them to. A good coach can also help you to unravel feedback from others and use it to help you to change.
- Keep notes on yourself
When you make an important decision it can be helpful to make a note of what you’d expect the outcome to be: what do you think will happen? At an appropriate time, go back to your notes and compare the actual outcome 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’: “the only way to discover your strengths.”
- Ask someone else
Identify people you know and feel you can trust and ask them to give you feedback on your personality, habits, needs and values. It may be helpful to ask people to provide you with this feedback anonymously so that they are more likely to be honest and give you a valid response that is insightful and helpful.
- Ask good questions
Asking good questions is a skill that can be invaluable to you and your organisation. However, when the question is about your own performance, it can be harder to be objective about receiving negative feedback. When you show that you are equally open to all types of feedback you demonstrate self-awareness and willingness to learn. Asking questions models a solid, transparent approach to problem solving and decision making that everyone in the organisation will benefit from. It also encourages others that it’s OK to not know everything and that to be constantly learning is a good thing.
- Listen to feedback without justifying
When you have solicited feedback it’s crucial to listen to it without justifying yourself or your actions. Otherwise, people will stop giving you feedback. And if you’re busy defending yourself you will probably miss out on what the person is trying to tell you. However, if you listen and accept feedback without defending yourself, you’re more likely to hear what you need to hear and learn from it. You will also increase your credibility with the person and create a trust bond that will encourage them to continue giving you helpful feedback in the future.
- Be open to change
You can’t become self-aware if you’re not actively interested in improving yourself and your leadership skills. It takes sustained effort and focus, and you won’t achieve it unless you regularly check in and re-focus your efforts. Just doing this is self-awareness in itself and a key step to developing it. However, having the desire to improve is only half the battle: you need to be open to change. We naturally shy away from change – it makes us uncomfortable. But lasting improvement only happens when we have the will to change a habit or behaviour and the self-awareness to hold ourselves accountable for that change.
- Identify the personal habits holding you back
We all have personal habits that stop us from being mindful and aware. They are like background processes running in your brain that drain your energy or distract you from what you should be focused on. If you want to improve as a leader you need to re-programme your brain for good habits and honing your self-awareness will help you do this. Define your bad habits. You don’t even need to change them initially. Just train yourself to notice them and then you can start to change direction.
- Embrace your intuition
Successful leaders trust their gut instincts and are prepared to take the risks associated with them. Our instincts are based on the survival of the fittest and our need to succeed – they help us decide what to do next and how to prioritise. Learn to trust these instincts and act on them.
- Be aware of others too
Knowing your strengths and weaknesses will help make you a better leader. But it’s also helpful to be a keen observer of others’ strengths and weaknesses too. Effective teams are made up of people who understand and complement each other rather than all the same personality types. If you are open minded and objective, having different types of people on board will also help to further your self-awareness and deepen your appreciation for the variety inherent in patterns of success. Having the right complement of people in the team and a supportive learning environment will help you see clearly what you do well and what others do well.
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