The answer to the title of this post can be neatly summed up by a quote from New York Times best-selling author Gretchen Rubin:
“Self-awareness is a key to great mastery.”
Gretchen Rubin is one of the most influential writers on the subjects of habits, happiness and human nature. Her work has led her to believe that people fit into one of Four Tendencies: Upholders, Questioners, Obligers and Rebels, and that tendency shapes every aspect of their behaviour.
Rubin proposes that understanding our tendency helps us “make better decisions, meet deadlines, suffer less stress and burnout, and engage more effectively”. Her bid to help and empower people through a journey of self-awareness has led her to become an international phenomenon, with book sales of around 3.5 million in over 30 languages.
But what is self-awareness and why is it so powerful for people? Why is it so valuable in the workplace? And how can we develop greater self-awareness in our employees?
What is self-awareness?
Gary van Warmerdam gives a great explanation: “Self-awareness is having a clear perception of your personality, including strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivation, and emotions. Self-awareness allows you to understand other people, how they perceive you, your attitude and your responses to them in the moment.”
Self-awareness helps us in every aspect of life. It helps us form positive relationships, manage stressful situations and perform better at work.
Self-awareness in employees
Raising employee self-awareness leads to:
1. More effective leaders
Self-aware leaders know their strengths and weaknesses. Knowing your strengths means you can play to them and lead with more confidence. Knowing your weaknesses allows you to identify areas you need to work on to enhance your performance.
Part of being self-aware is understanding how your behaviour influences those around you. And the ability to flex your leadership style to more readily engender respect and build trust with those you work with is an irreplaceable pillar of effective leadership.
2. Stronger teams
If each member of a team understands why they choose to approach their work the way they do, how others are similar or different, and what this means for the overall team performance, you create a stronger and more cohesive unit.
3. More positive working relationships
In a work environment, we tend to interact more with people we are not close to or familiar with than those we spend time with in our personal lives. It means we often need to make even more of an effort to positively relate to others. A clear understanding of your own thoughts and behaviours helps you better understand other people, and this facilitates positive relationships with colleagues, managers and others in the organisation.
4. Accelerated personal growth and development
Self-improvement is impossible without self-awareness. Self-awareness is a fundamental first step to growth and development. It’s about being conscious of what you’re good at while acknowledging the things that may be working against you.
5. Greater productivity
Self-aware teams understand their collective strengths and potential blind spots, and can therefore make adaptations when necessary to deliver against business goals.
People who know themselves also have a clear view of what tasks they are good at, and which tasks may be better suited to someone with different preferences. This allows them to delegate tasks to ensure everyone is as engaged and productive as possible.
Self-awareness can only be developed by focusing your attention on the details of your personality and behaviours. This is why personality profiling tools, from the more simplistic (Rubin’s Four Tendencies) to the more advanced (Facet5) are so valuable.
These tools help shine a light on who you really are; your personality, your strengths and weaknesses, and why you behave in the way you do. Having this self-awareness equips you to play to the strengths of your personality, and to mitigate against the things that could trip you up.
An open feedback culture in the workplace can also be valuable in creating greater self-awareness in employees. Feedback makes us aware of how others perceive us. A leader may think their bold confidence is highly motivating for their team when it could be causing them to shy away from putting forward their own ideas. The problem is that the more senior a person becomes, the less feedback they get. So it’s important to put appropriate structures and systems in place, like 360-degree feedback, to ensure they are aware of others’ views.
Companies today need to be thinking innovatively about how they can empower their people to perform at their best. By helping your employees to become more self-aware, you can create better leaders, stronger team players, and a more productive and happier workforce as a whole. And all this serves to enhance the performance of your organisation.
To raise this self-awareness, you need tools and structures to help people understand themselves. Personality profiling and 360-degree feedback are a good starting point. But this needs to be coupled with effective coaching and guidance to provoke people to become the best they can be.