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  • Writer's pictureAmii Barnard-Bahn

Five Things To Increase Your Self-Awareness

Updated: Dec 23, 2021

This is the first in a multi-part series on my newly released Promotability Index. Of the five key leadership elements that get you promoted, I want to start with giving you a deeper dive on self-awareness, because you must first be self-aware and honest with yourself if you are serious about doing the work it takes to optimize your career opportunities.

Self-awareness is fundamental to effective leadership. In simple terms, it is the ability to be introspective; to accurately reflect on our behaviors, emotions and attitudes. It is the foundational element of emotional intelligence, as expressed by thought leader Daniel Goleman, and it has been cited as one of the top two reasons leaders succeed or fail. 

Self-awareness enables you to view yourself objectively, without judgment. And if you have an accurate and honest view of yourself, this enables you to make good decisions and quickly course-correct, if necessary.

So let’s kick off 2020 with five valuable things you can do to increase your self-awareness:

1. Know Your Why, How And What It’s important in your career (and life) to be able to clearly articulate your personal values, motivations and interests. When you’re aware of your preferences and aversions, you can make intentional, well-considered choices that lead to greater success and personal fulfillment. Recently, one of my clients was given feedback that his interpersonal style was impacting his ability to inspire trust and influence others. He doesn’t value interpersonal interaction, per se, or need a lot of approval, so summoning the motivation to shift his interactions is a potential challenge for him.

We revisited his values and are re-framing the behavior change to align with his strong preference for flawless execution and having fun at work. To start exploring this for yourself, think about what motivates you to do your best work. Is it the opportunity to be a technical expert, solving a problem no one else has resolved? Supporting your team emotionally through challenges like a reorganization? The feeling you get when you rally people to action? Recognize and note the moments you are operating at your best. These reflections will help bring you to your why, how and what.    

2. Understand What Sets You Off Think about the last time you lost your temper at work? Beat yourself up over a mistake? Thought someone made a bad choice, or you became unnecessarily competitive? Pick one emotional reaction that is not serving you, and start noticing when this behavior is triggered. Keep a journal for a week and note the circumstances of the event and thoughts that come to mind. Chances are, your internal emotions are showing up externally. If you’re aware, you can work to change your reaction habit.

3. Seek Out Your Blindspots  Are you aware of the behaviors that may be decreasing your leadership effectiveness? The most effective way to comprehensively expose blind spots is to do what’s called a “360” review (where work colleagues confidentially provide candid developmental feedback evaluations, which are debriefed with you by a trained coach). A quick self-step in this direction is for you ask your boss: “What one thing could I do to be more effective in my job?” Listen carefully, and ask for context if it’s not clear. Stay curious and nonjudgmental.

4. Replace an Old Habit with a New One Take the habit or behavior you identified in #2 or #3 above and consider the cost of not making the change. Next, write down a small step you can take towards making the change, and identify an accountability partner (either a coach or trusted colleague) to support your effort. 

5. Go Meta Now take a 50,000 foot view of yourself, and be as objective as you can. Did you really leave that last job because your boss didn’t appreciate you? What may have been a contributing factor on your end in not getting that promotion? Take stock and get real. It’s very useful to do a backward-looking career review every few years to gain the perspective that comes with time and experience. Are there any patterns emerging, and what learnings can you take forward? 

While self-awareness is one of the most fundamental leadership qualities, it can also be the hardest thing to improve on your own. It’s where I spend the majority of time supporting clients so they can both get ahead in their careers and lead happier, more fulfilled lives. In my experience, self-awareness is both a gift to yourself and to others. It’s a gift to yourself, because self-awareness is the root of all great personal satisfaction. It means you know why you do what you do and are clear in your beliefs. This clarity brings incredible external benefits, because you are viewed as an authentic leader, in alignment with your values. 

After you’ve taken the Promotability Index, take a look at your self-awareness score. Which checklist items are missing? Where would you like to invest your time, focus and money this year? 

P.S. If you missed the 2020 Women on Boards – National Conversation on Board Diversity in your city this year, my opening keynote for Sacramento is available here.

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