If you're trying to be a better leader, or a better teammate, it all starts with knowing yourself first. Self-awareness is the knowledge you have about all those things that help you perform at your very best, as well as knowing what things to avoid because they bring out the worst in you.
Self-awareness is also knowing the impact that your behaviour has on other people and trying to make adjustments that will lead you to better outcomes. This is why it's next to impossible to be a good leader without a healthy dose of self-awareness.
For example, if you know you have a bias for action and making quick decisions, you will have to work harder to avoid shutting down conversations before all the important issues are surfaced.
Or, if you're a team leader who tends to avoid conflict, you'll want to resist the temptation to shut down a good debate between two team members.
Another example is when you have a high need for control, which often causes people to see you as a micro-manager. In this situation, you're showing self-awareness if you back off and let go, which will tell others that you have confidence in their ability.
A person with high self-awareness gets good at asking the question, "If I don't like how things are unfolding in a situation, is there something that I'm doing that may be part of the problem?"
In contrast, people with low self-awareness will often blame others first, rather than going inward to ask whether there's something they need to do differently.
Here are some questions worth pondering if your goal is to become more self-aware:
• Do you have natural strengths that are not being tapped, or that you should maybe tap into more? Some people are in jobs that don't bring out the best in who they are, or in what they have to contribute. Are your talents largely on display, or are they hidden?
• Do you get bored easily and, if so, does this mean you don't have enough challenge in your role? Many people don't realise that being bored can be just as stressful as being overworked.
• Is the flow of your day structured around your body's biorhythm? A lot of people struggle to pay attention in the afternoon, so why not schedule important 'thinking' time earlier in the day?
• Do you learn better by listening and reflecting, or by diving in with a more hands-on approach? You should know what gives you the best traction when you're on a learning curve.
• Are you comfortable enough with ambiguity? Very few things at work, and in life, can be nailed down with absolute certainty. Maybe this is your game changer.
• Do you require a lot of attention and praise, or are you self-sufficient? If you've developed a reputation for being high maintenance, others may start to avoid you.
• What are your personal triggers for high stress? For some people, it's fatigue. For others, it's dealing with people who shun accountability. Or perhaps you have a low tolerance for whining. What are those things that cause you to come unglued? People with high self-awareness are careful to avoid triggers that bring out their worst side.
Finally, the main way to close the gap between how others see you, and how you view yourself, is to ask for feedback from those people who work with you.
You can do this informally, or there are more structured ways to get feedback, such as surveys that people can complete.
Find out what your co-workers consider to be your strengths, as well as those things that they recommend you do differently.
Remember, self-awareness only matters in relation to other people around you. If you want to be a better leader or team member, go inward and take an inventory on those things that may require some fine-tuning.
If the end result is a better you, then everybody wins.