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A Leader’s Self Awareness Checklist

Feb 14, 2020 | 15m

Gain Actionable Insights Into:

  • The case for asking ‘what’ instead of ‘why’ to become more self-aware
  • Using self-awareness to make sure your message is received the right way
  • How identifying your values and saboteurs will make you happier and more successful


What Is Self Awareness

A recent study of 4,500 people by the Hay Group showed that 19% of women and 4% of men were self-aware. In another study it showed, the more you advance in your career, the less self-awareness you tend to have. Could it be that you start believing your own press, or is it just that you simply don’t have the time to reflect? Either way, self-awareness is the essential, yet often invisible, piece to the puzzle of exemplary leadership.

Intuitively, it might seem that self-awareness is all about finding out what’s bad about you and fixing it. But that approach might lead you more towards self-focus or self-consciousness which is not quite as effective.

Self-awareness has two parts – the first is knowledge of your values, motivations and triggers; how you are feeling and the second part is how others perceive you. Self-awareness is you existing in a system, not about you alone. On the other hand, self-focus is all about yourself: what do you get, what do you want. Nobody else exists in the equation.

Self-consciousness tends to occur when you lack confidence and are constantly wondering what your actions will look like to others. When you’re self-conscious, you’re also thinking about yourself, but in a way that highlights your insecurities or perceived flaws. You start fixating on what’s wrong with you, not on the problems that need to be solved, the other people in the room, or your impact. If you’re constantly using energy to beat yourself up, you will find it even more difficult to perform at your best.

Self-awareness is more about asking “what” and not “why”. What am I often triggered by? What did I do in this situation and how can I do it better? If you ask “why”, you end up cross-examining yourself in a harsh way and are metaphorically picking up a hammer and hitting yourself in the head. Self-awareness should lead you to solutions, not self-criticism. Approach it positively, if you’re always beating yourself up, you are wasting your time, energy and hurting your own self- confidence making it even harder to achieve what you want.


Areas Where Self-Awareness Can Be Applied

The first step to being more self-aware is to do a deep dive to understand who you are. This includes identifying your values, your motivations – why do you do what you do, as well as your triggers or saboteurs.

There are several areas in which you can apply self-awareness as a leader, and as a result, steer your team towards growth and success. Self-awareness will help you set the tone of how you do what you do, give and receive feedback more effectively, deliver your message impactfully, as well as be a happier person in general.

Thoughts & Emotions

Has someone’s behaviour ever elicited a disproportionately intense reaction from you? It’s likely that you’ve been triggered by something. They may have stepped on a key value of yours or triggered you in an area where you have had previous scar tissue, many of which are subconscious. If you don’t identify your values, triggers or saboteurs, you’re preventing yourself from achieving your full potential, because you will allow your brain to be hijacked. As a result, you can’t be fully present, listening, and providing solutions. In addition, these triggers and saboteurs shape your emotions, which then produce thoughts and behaviours that aren’t optimal. All in all, you are not at your best.

Generally, saboteurs are a result of incidents that might have left an impact on you well in your past, and you’ve put these “triggers” in your subconscious memory. You might have had overly critical parents, for instance. As a result, you may spend large portions of your energy guarding yourself against criticism. The more time you spend being defensive, the less you’re able to focus on where you want to go and how to reach the best solution.

While saboteurs may have helped you in the past, they currently may be preventing you from reaching your full potential. Understanding the specific factors that trigger you will help you to get them out of your way. You can visit the ‘Positive Intelligence’ website to take a free assessment that will help you identify your saboteurs.

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