With so much information out there on how we should be or what will make us successful I am struck by how most of us skip over the most basic first step, self-awareness. How can we possibly apply new learnings if we do not have a good sense of who we are?
I appreciate Bill George’s stance on self-awareness: “Four thousand years ago the Oracle of Delphi said, “Know thyself.” What’s new is that we are learning how important self-awareness is to leadership development. Being self-aware is easier said than done. That’s why so many leaders engage in self-defeating behaviors that cause them to fail.” – Bill George
Over the next few weeks I invite you to pause. Then, with courage and curiosity, spend some time being more aware of your “self”.
Do you think you know yourself well? Self-awareness is key to success and fulfillment in work, life, and relationships.
“Knowing yourself, and knowing the forces that affect the people who work for you, holds the key to being a successful leader.”
– Kenneth M. Settel, MD, Clinical Instructor in Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, CEO Psychology: Who Rises, Who Falls and Why (RosettaBooks, 2012)
Many of us believe we know our character strengths, and over time have worked to define and develop them. At the same time, not being cognizant of our innate strengths and weaknesses can blindside or at least stifle our success.
One assessment that I recommend is the StrengthsFinder for identifying your innate strengths. Knowing your innate strengths is valuable in understanding where to leverage your time and energy for maximum results. At the same time each strength has a shadow when carried to the extreme. Self-awareness is critical both in enhancing performance and in preventing self-sabotage.
The Pitfalls of Personality Traits
Here are a few examples of personality traits with both their positive and negative sides from Dr. Rick Brinkman in his book Dealing with People You Can’t Stand.
You probably have a sense of your personal talents and liabilities. Learning how to leverage them—amplifying your strengths while managing your weaknesses—sets the stage for effective interpersonal relationships. You’ll become confident being vulnerable and less reactive to criticism.
Even the strongest, most talented people have shadows and weaknesses. Each of us is driven by conscious and unconscious forces that have the potential to be channeled into meaningful outcomes or can become self-sabotaging, therefore it is important to seek personal and professional development opportunities at every stage of your life. You do not gain self-awareness in a vacuum – having a mentor or experienced coach enriches the experience of self-awareness. Engage in seeking feedback with a robust 360 assessment with an experienced coach certified in 360 assessments.
Here’s the challenge: if you were to sit down and write out your personality traits and then list a couple of ways they show up as a strength and as a weakness, would you be able to do it? Do you know yourself well?
“First you will have to understand yourself, because the hardest person you will ever have to lead is yourself. Second, to be an effective leader, you must take responsibility for your own development.”
– Bill George, True North, (Jossey-Bass 2009)