Mark Topley discusses what it takes to be self aware and why it is integral to a good boss – and business.
According to various studies, between 75 and 90% of drivers surveyed believed they were ‘above average’.
By definition of course, no more than 49% of us can be above average at anything. And this lack of awareness of our own abilities in skills like driving may have its roots in a core leadership trait – self awareness. According to Harvard Business Review, most people believe that they are self aware, whereas only 10-15% of us actually are.
Self Awareness is a critical trait for leaders because when we see ourselves clearly, we are more confident and more creative. We make better decisions, build stronger relationships, and communicate more effectively. Ultimately we are more effective leaders with happier team members and our businesses are more profitable.
But for a boss in a company of any size, it’s difficult to always know how we ‘show up’. And this is exacerbated by our position as leaders. Power and experience can hinder self awareness, because expertise alone does not help us to spot false information.
Also, seeing ourselves as highly experienced can keep us from working on ourselves, seeking contrary evidence, and questioning our assumptions.
What is self awareness?
According to Harvard Business Review, there are actually two types of self awareness – internal (how clearly we see ourselves) and external (how other people view us).
People who know how others see them are better at showing empathy and taking on board the perspectives of others.
These two types of self awareness correspond to four archetypes for self awareness:If you spot yourself in any of the less able archetypes, don’t worry because there is plenty we can do to improve.
In the four stages of competence, conscious incompetence (knowing what we don’t know) is the stage before improvement starts, and actually indicates you have moved beyond the Unconsciously Incompetent stage – the stage that we want to avoid.
What does a self aware leader look like?
There are six skills I try to develop in the leaders I coach:
- Empathy: increasing empathy increases your emotional intelligence. I encourage members to get curious about why people act and respond rather than simply reacting to it
- Adaptability: working on your ability to avoid or diffuse tough situations, even if it means taking a walk or just engaging in a few deep breaths
- Confidence: when we accept and even embrace our flaws, needs and strengths, we make ourselves more vulnerable, which is a great strength and builds stronger relationships
- Mindfulness: being more mindful in the present, allows us to take situations at face value rather than dwelling on negative past experiences or anticipating them in the future
- Patience: honing patience in heated situations stops us making the mistake of taking our frustrations out on the team
- Kindness: being self-aware and realising our teams are human and have their own struggles can help us be more sympathetic.
How do I improve my self awareness?
If you are now aware that your self awareness requires development, what do you do? Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones have a fantastic phrase they use in their excellent book ‘Why Should Anyone Be Led by You?’
‘Be yourself – more – with skill’
I have two recommendations that will help you start to be yourself, but with skill:
Start with a personality type test. There are several available online. Strengths Finder, DISC, Myers Briggs are just a few.
Whichever one you choose is not so important as making sure that you use the test consistently across the team.
My personal favourite is DISC, and the paid versions will contain detailed analysis that have invaluable practical application.
Start with you, and then DISC test your team. It’s a fun exercise when done well.
Start asking questions that build trust. One I have used is to ask: ‘On a scale of one to 10, how well did I do as a boss this last week?’ and the follow up – ‘what would have made it a 10?’
Asking someone you trust will give you great feedback, show that you are serious about improving as a boss, and set the tone for the rest of the team.
Self awareness is a critical trait for leaders, but most of us are unaware. This poses a risk to the wellbeing of our teams and the profitability of our businesses. Thankfully there is much that any of us can do to improve.
My Great Boss Scorecard contains a carefully curated and researched set of qualities of a great boss and their business. Assess yourself against the ‘Great Boss Scorecard’ and we’ll send you a personalised report with feedback tailored to your specific needs.
There are 30 quick questions, drawn from a sample of the great boss attributes.
You’ll need less than five minutes and we’ll send you immediate feedback. It’s quick, confidential and free.
Mark Topley masterminded The Great Boss Academy to help leaders create businesses where people love to come to work. To find out more visit www.great-boss.com.