Leadership Retreats Resources

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Why Self-Awareness is Just Information without Application

November 18, 2021
Dr. Chris Auger

In 2010, I was given the opportunity to be the Executive Officer for Naval Special Warfare’s Center for SEALs and SWCC. Our mission was centered around leader development and enlisted sailors’ career management. Upon arriving, I was given a DiSC for Leaders and an Emotional Quotient Inventory 2.0 (EQi 2.0) assessment. I was very quickly made aware that my preferred approach (DiSC) and how I showed up (EQi 2.0) with that preferred approach also contained several leadership blind spots.

I was unintentionally training the department supervisors to come to meetings unprepared. I had a tendency to do most of the talking, tell them what I desired, when it was to be done, how it was to be done, etc… I unintentionally trained them to believe that their input did not matter. I trained them to come to meetings and wait for the answer instead of coming with solutions.

Discovering how much I was in my own way to effectively lead, team, and follow stung a bit, but yet was a great discovery. The challenge in front of me: What was I going to do with this information? Was I going to ignore the information and go along with business as usual or was I going to turn that information into self-awareness by applying it in a way that would help me and those around to be more successful? I had some decisions to make, and they required me to be intentionally introspective and purposeful.

The term self-awareness is complex, yet not complicated. The challenge in developing self-awareness is understanding that without action on what we learn about ourselves, it ends up as being unused data and a missed opportunity to move towards excellence.

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When we are self-aware, we are not only aware of how we see ourselves but also how we are impacting others.

Being self-aware is a significant part of our Emotional Intelligence (EQ). Multi-Healthy Services CEO and author Stephen Stein PhD, defines EQ as a set of emotional and social skills that collectively establish how well we accurately perceive ourselves, appropriately express ourselves, develop and maintain healthy social relationships, cope with challenges, and use emotional information in an effective and meaningful way.

Developing self-awareness is supported through the discovery of helpful feedback coupled with taking appropriate action to create a more impactful and effective engagement with others.  Studies are showing that when healthy self-awareness is in play, the organization benefits from “more effective leaders, higher profits, and happier employees.” Self-awareness takes intentionality and some work to exercise those self-awareness muscles. The question is: Is the organization willing to forego the benefits of such a readily available resource as self-awareness?

“Employees with leaders who had greater emotional self-awareness were more productive” – Steven Stein, The EQ Leader

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Three Steps to Maximizing the Impact of Self-Awareness

Step 1: Discovering Helpful Feedback

Self-awareness requires that we seek and collect many forms of feedback. Maintaining a journey of discovery and a willingness to receive feedback helps to refresh our current perspective. Feedback comes in the form of assessments (like the DiSC and EQi 2.0), verbal and nonverbal language from those around us, formal and informal evaluations, and even that internal voice within us. I would even include that gut feeling we get in some instances as a form of feedback we should take into consideration.

There are many types of behavioral and trait assessments that can be taken. When I coach others, I encourage them to look at all their assessments and discover both the positive and negative trends that are threaded across most of them.

As an example, I can look at my Strengths Finder, EQi 2.0, and MBTI Step II and see that empathy is consistently in the lower ranges. Imagine my surprise when my bride and daughter confirmed this low trend. Our relationships have been impacted in a most positive way because of this discovery and my choice to act on the information. I could have chosen to ignore this trend, but I would have been choosing to compromise the relationships with them and my own effectiveness to lead, team, and follow across all my circles of influence (work, family, and friends). I also see a trend of assertiveness and self-actualization in my feedback, that while they are strengths, if I lean too heavily into them could become liabilities in how I engage others.

My challenge for you: Can you identify trends in your feedback? Are you willing to embark on that journey of discovery? Will you act on the learned information?

Step 2: Acting on the Feedback

Helpful feedback is a gift and we must learn how to receive it well. Not all feedback is helpful or welcome though. Seeking feedback from trusted sources that you believe know you, care about you, and seek to help you become better is a perfect place to validate received feedback. Over time, however, you will learn how to discern what is helpful and what is not helpful along your leading, teaming, and following journey. When we can validate feedback through a multitude of mechanisms, we can then begin putting a plan into place to act on it.

Some people are given a gift of self-awareness and some of us need help in developing it. An artist is typically born with the gift of artistry and with the right development can realize its greatest potential.

Self-awareness can be recognized, fostered, and developed over time.

It takes intentionality and consistency to realize that most of our self-awareness requires practice and experimentation. Are there people in your life that know you, care about you, and want to help you become better that you can ask to help you on this journey of discovery? What would it look like for you to invite them into this arena with you?

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Step 3: Pro-Active Preparation  

Part of acting on the feedback is being proactive in how we position ourselves to receive quality feedback. Being ready for feedback helps it land a lot better when we start to receive it. Our willingness to hear it and respond appropriately, instead of reacting emotionally, is key.

How can we employ techniques to aid us in our self-awareness and be more receptive to feedback? There are four key components to setting ourselves up well to receive feedback. I refer to them as the core four:

  1. An Intentional/Purposeful Faith Walk
  2. Restorative Sleep
  3. Quality Nutrition/Hydration
  4. Enjoyable Exercise/Play

Each of these elements builds on one another for an exponential impact on our emotional, social, physical and spiritual wellbeing. When these core four are healthy, we are best prepared to be physically and emotionally present in the moment with others. How many of us can think of an instance where we were a bit stressed (hungry, angry, hangry, tired, etc.) and when we were squeezed what came out of us was not our best? What micro-adjustments can you put in place in each of the core four to feel, think, and perform in a way that is most desirable?

Take the Next Step

How will you go about seeking feedback that will help you become more self-aware? How will you act on it? Will you set yourself up for being the most receptive you can be? Self-awareness takes intentionality and consistency. Without action, we cannot journey to the next horizon. Each of us has a different self-awareness mountain to climb.

Need help with developing self-awareness? Let us help you on the journey with assessments, coaching, and servant leadership, teamsmanship, and followership development.

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Work with a coach to increase your self-awareness.

Embark on a powerful journey of self-discovery that leads to lasting personal and professional growth by leveraging tools to create a development plan that is personalized to your goals.