When was the last time you took a look in the mirror and really saw who you were? Not the little wrinkles or the crooked smile, but who you are inside. Who is the woman in the mirror? What makes you, you? How are you different from everyone else? How are you the same? One of the most important tools for being a better human is self-awareness. A lot of people lack this tool and suffer because of it. Knowing how you are being perceived by others can help you win (or lose), both deals and your employees. Today self-awareness is even more important. If you want to be a great leader and a good human, self-awareness is key. It will be invaluable to your relationships, both professional and personal.
My path to self-awareness
I have never been in a physical fight in my life, aside from skirmishes with my brothers and sisters as children. I am the youngest sibling so it would have been hard for me to win in a physical match with them so I stopped trying early on. With six older siblings, I did learn a different way of defending myself that has stuck with me to this day. I can verbally spar with the best of them and when I do, I want to win. At work, this has translated to being very direct in my communication style. Direct communication can be effective to get things done and to let folks know where you stand. Unfortunately, this direct communication style can also get me in trouble at times. It has forced me down a path of self-awareness (sometimes kicking and screaming). After getting the feedback time and again, I knew I had to get better at looking in the mirror.
I spoke to my mentors about how I could improve my self-awareness and in turn, my way of showing up. What I have learned and practice as much as possible, is to reflect (not always in the moment, unfortunately) but after the fact. I take a few minutes to think about my actions and how I could have done better. Then I try to put myself in the other person’s shoes and think of how they felt about the interaction. By taking some time and reflecting on the other person, I have been able to notice when my actions aren’t ideal.
How do you become self-aware?
Now it’s your turn. Step back and look at yourself from someone else’s point of view. After your next meeting take a few moments to think about how you showed up. Be critical of how the interaction went. This is hard and quite honestly, one of the toughest reviews to do. Take some time to see what others see when they interact with you. This will start to show you the woman in the mirror. Then, for the next week or two, after each meeting take that same time for self-reflection. Again, think about how you showed up. Reflect on the body language and reactions from people in the meeting. Ask yourself a few of the following questions.
How did you feel when you walked out of the meeting? Did you feel like you won the point, but lost the relationship?
Were there places you thought went well and others that you would have changed?
At any point could you have added more to help the meeting along?
Were there times when you spoke too much and the meeting went off topic?
Did you let someone taker over a meeting that you were leading? Or were you the one taking over?
Did you allow yourself to become emotional about a topic that led to unkind words
Did you allow space for the more introverted folks to get a word in edgewise? Are you the more introverted person who didn’t speak up?
How would you have felt about your contributions (or detractions) from the meeting if you were in someone else’s shoes?
In the book, What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There, Marshall Goldsmith focuses on the showstoppers. Showstoppers are those pieces of feedback that can stop your career. He also gives you some ideas on how to overcome them. You can overcome the showstoppers. Bigger than that, you can be a better human.
Self-awareness is not a one stop, quick fix. Here is the thing, if you are aware of what you are good at and where you need to improve you are better equipped to improve. Open your mind to self-awareness and you open the path to growth in your career.