After nearly thirty years in the leadership and professional development industry, I’m often asked during interviews and keynote speeches what’s my biggest learning throughout my career.
It’s an easy, instantaneous answer: the key to building organizational culture, developing relationships, growing your career, and expanding your influence is self-awareness. Can you step outside yourself, look back, and see your personality, communication style, and overall brand?
To put it bluntly, what’s it like to know you?
Over my career, I’ve been responsible for dozens of terminations. Almost without exception, when I’ve had to make the difficult decision to end someone’s employment, it culminates from a systemic lack of self-awareness. Typically, they’ve fallen into behavior patterns that go either unchecked or unchallenged, and those small behaviors become a consistent, repetitive series of negative interactions that destroy or damage their organization’s most valuable asset.
What’s that unrivaled asset? The relationships between the people who work in your organization.
So how do you grow your self-awareness to ensure you’re not part of this downward spiral? As importantly, how can you help your team members cultivate this self-awareness? Here are a few vital points to consider:
Ask those immediately around you for feedback:
- What’s it like to work on a project with you? be in a meeting with you? be in a relationship with you?
- Consider asking members of your team what’s it like to report to you.
- Take it a step further and ask your leader what’s it like to lead you.
Asking these questions will require most of us to move outside our comfort zones and take control of conversations that might be awkward and require a heightened level of courage and diplomacy.
Identify those involved more broadly in your life, personally and professionally, who are the wisest and most seasoned in their relationships.
- Ask them if they’d be willing to share some of their lessons, both successes and failures, as they built their careers. Listen carefully, as many of their crossroads will present themselves to you some day. You’ll want to know how they navigated those decisions.
- Invite them to share insights on your behavior, strengths, and weaknesses. Check your ego, close your mouth, take notes, and ask for specifics, so you can pinpoint trends or specific situations that may consistently trip you up.
- Ask them to monitor you for improvements and/or repeated trip-ups in the future.
Interview yourself. Set aside time for deep, unfiltered introspection.
- If you’re brutally honest with yourself, you can gain significant insights on your strengths and areas of growth. We’re all so insanely busy; we rarely take a breath, invest the time in ourselves, and truthfully confront our realities.
- Dig deep and ask yourself what situations make you most uncomfortable or awkward. If you’re piercingly introspective, have you caused some of the interpersonal issues or conflicts you’re facing? If you “stepped to the plate” emotionally, what could you learn and adjust, so you could right some wrongs and begin to repair your brand? What settings trigger fears or insecurities and result in you being immature, impatient, or even rude?
Some of my best learnings about myself come when I check my ego, demonstrate vulnerability, and listen with uncharacteristic willingness. If you did the same, what could you learn about yourself, your marriage, your reputation, or your legacy?
It’s never too late to build your self-awareness. Who can help you start today?
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