Self-awareness important for capable leadership

    According to the February 2007 Harvard Business Review, there may be something to all this talk about self-awareness. Self-awareness has just been recognized as the most important capability for leaders to develop. I would add that this is a quality that is beneficial for anyone to develop. After all, we are all leaders somewhere in our lives aren’t we? Emotions can play an important role in our careers, education, at home, in our community, and in all our relationships.
   Ever find that you get upset easily or fairly regularly? Maybe you feel overwhelmed most of the time, stressed out, or even tired? Have you asked yourself if this is the plan you had for your life way back when? Whose life are you living anyway?
   An even better question would be, “What role do you play in all of this?”
   Remember the old joke, “Doc, my arm hurts when I move it like this. What should I do?” To which the good doctor quickly responds, “Stop moving it like that.” If your life, career, relationships, etc., are not going the way you’d like, maybe it’s time you took a hard look at yourself.
   I don’t mean any disrespect when I say this but if you’re encountering the same problems over and over in a variety of situations, the problem may be right in front of you… No wait, right behind you. Actually, as you can see there is no easy way to say this — the problem may be you, more specifically, your lack of self-awareness.

What is self-awareness?
   How many people really take the time to get to know themselves? It may seem incomprehensible that you could or should actually meet yourself. Just for the sake of clarity, let’s talk about what self-awareness is.
   Self-awareness is knowing one’s internal states, preferences, resources and intuitions, allowing us to plan our actions and develop proactive behaviors. Simply put, self-awareness involves the process of identifying your experience as either a thought or a feeling. Can you observe yourself and correctly identify and label the emotion being experienced? People with greater certainty about feelings are better pilots of their lives, having a surer sense of how they really feel about personal decisions from whom to marry to what job to take.

Why is it important?
   Being self-aware means being authentic to yourself. This is where constructive or critical thinking happens. Where you either start understanding or integrating your needs, motives and desires. As you work to develop your self-awareness you increase your self-confidence.
   A good leader knows when you understand yourself you are more likely to understand others. Now that’s a skill that can come in handy. Anyone striving to increase their skills needs a plan. A solid plan can make all the difference.

How do I make a plan?
   The process is not a quick fix; rather, it is a life-long commitment. Change happens over time. So be patient with yourself while you are learning. Self-awareness allows us to take responsibility for our outcomes, plan our actions, and develop proactive behaviors.
   You may be wondering how you can develop a plan for your personal or professional development. Here are some suggestions to get you going in the right direction. Your plan should include these four steps:

   Before you do anything, you might want to take an assessment to determine a baseline of where you are currently at. Assessments can identify your strengths, challenges, and personal style. They can be a gold mine giving you a feeling of satisfaction in that you understand your preferences and tendencies better.
   Goal setting. Now that you understand your unique style you can create a plan that identifies specific skills that are congruent with your preferences and tendencies yet challenges you to develop new behaviors.
   Accountability. We all need to be accountable. You can find this in a friend, a close family member, a mentor, or a personal development coach. Whomever you decide to work with, collaborate on a plan, even if it is very simple, that spells out exactly what you need from them.

   Ever wondered how others see you? Feedback is probably the most important dimension in your personal development plan. It is through feedback that we can learn to “see ourselves as others see us.” This process is where you solicit others’ perceptions and feelings about your new behaviors.
   By developing your self-awareness you are increasing your emotional intelligence. The knowledge and skills that you develop to accurately identify and express your emotions are vital for human performance, not to mention physical health.

Michelle Simms is a personal development coach and the owner of Bellingham-based Simms International. She provides one-on-one and group coaching services to individuals around the world.



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