From taking responsibility to leading well, self-awareness is one of the most important abilities you can acquire and nurture. It can make or break your career.
If you are a leader, you know that your actions and your attitude set the tone. If you’re late, then it’s OK for everyone to be late. When you don’t have to use the new procedures or process, then no one does. Your actions and your example make the rules reality.
If you are a team member, your actions and attitude affect your work. If you can’t muster enough self-awareness to take responsibility for mistakes, you won’t be a valued team member for long.
So, how do you acquire self-awareness to allow for improved responsibility? To some degree, I believe it is an innate ability, but you can develop it. Looking at yourself objectively requires holding up a mirror sometimes, and you might not always like what you see.
The first thing I would suggest is to join a meetup or a mastermind where part of the focus is on goals and accountability. (In case you missed it, my colleague, Brandon Hayes of Kalos Consulting, and I have teamed up to start a mastermind focused on all aspects of one’s life. Email me if you’re interested in learning more.) My MasterMavens mastermind group has been essential in calling me out when I am not being truthful with myself and making sure that I not only set goals but that I am held accountable to them.
Self-awareness comes from the inside, and you have to start by getting those inner thoughts out. I have many colleagues who have had great success with meditation, yoga or other mindful habits to help them tie the inner self to the outer self. Those introspective moments can truly help you gain some insight. Plus, just having the structure surrounding your workday helps you become more focused on your actions.
Another way to get the inner thoughts out is to write. This opportunity is one of the few times I will encourage pen and paper over technology. I’ve kept a journal during parts of my life and it has always allowed me to be completely honest. I keep it private. And there is some beauty in knowing you can destroy it. Shredding or fire are great options. We all say horrible things about ourselves. Things we would never dream of saying to another person. And if you can get that nonsense out of your head and light those thoughts on fire, you have a tool to help you start to own a method to get out of your own head.
That doesn’t mean that journaling must be angry or unstructured. It also doesn’t mean you don’t want to save what you wrote and look back on it. The importance of journaling is that it is what you need it to be. So, you can be creative in how you use your words.
Another form of writing is to simply write down your strengths and weaknesses. Be completely objective. Self-awareness then comes more to light as you try to play to those strengths and improve upon your weaknesses.
Setting goals are very important as well. And, not just setting them. You have to assess your progress toward them regularly. I set goals every year, but I don’t set and forget. I plan them with interim steps and I check in on them once a month. Plus, my mastermind mavens hold me accountable as well.
Trusted friends or colleagues can help too. You have to be careful though to not turn self-awareness discussions into attacking or defensive conversations. I find it important to keep an unemotional approach. Consider the feedback as information — not as an attack. And don’t defend yourself. You can ask questions to clarify, but if you begin making excuses or justifying your actions, you quickly lose the ability to gain self-awareness.
Lastly, you can take some personality profile tests to see, objectively, what your strengths and weaknesses are. I like DiSC. But there are others such as CliftonStrengths and Myers Briggs, which is the most well-known.
Overall, the more time you take to get to know yourself, the more self-awareness you embrace. And that ability can make all the difference in the quality of leader or team member that you make.
Originally published at Beyond the Chaos: Small Business Project Management and Operations Consulting.