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  • Writer's pictureSheila

Start with YOU

I have the privilege, among other things, of coaching teams of MBA students at Queen’s University. And related to that, in helping recruit and train new coaches. One of the questions that many of the prospective coaches ask is some form of, “What do you love most about your work?”.

The answer to this question is easy. What I love most about this work, and in fact all the work that I do, is interacting with students who are open, keen and self-aware, and watching what that does for them over the course of their program. They learn more about themselves, discover and challenge their limits, expand their thinking, and ultimately come away transformed. Their self-awareness and desire to become even more so, to learn more about themselves and their responses to what comes at them, is fundamental to their success. It also happens to make them delightful to work with. I find these students to be engaged, thoughtful, committed and yes, challenging. They push me to be better, to better my own self-awareness, understand my limits and biases, and to push beyond those.

I have seen self-awareness referred to as a skill, a competency and an emotional intelligence, but however you categorize it, it is often defined as the ability to see yourself objectively, monitor your emotions and manage your reactions to the things happening to you and around you. This puts it squarely in the realm of “managing yourself”, and studies show that leaders and managers with high levels of self-awareness are more effective.

I like a more specific version of this definition – one that suggests that self-awareness is,

The ability to see ourselves clearly, to understand who we are,

how others see us and how we fit into the world*”

Tasha Eurich

The underlining is mine. What I like about this is that it defines “knowing yourself” in the context of other people and the world around you.

I think that changes the definition entirely. If you “know yourself” and the context is you, perhaps your self-reflection provides a self-knowing that looks like the picture below.

Understanding others’ perspectives allows you to triangulate and have a more complete (dare I say accurate?) view – like the gentleman below.


If you are motivated to see how others experience you, you are going to have a much broader definition of yourself in different settings and with different people. What you think of as confidence might be showing up for someone else as arrogance, or an unwillingness to listen to others’ ideas. Knowing that might change how you present yourself in different settings so that others see what you feel you are demonstrating.

Self-awareness is not just about knowing what you intend, it is about understanding how others perceive you. Sometimes you might have to change the way you deliver something so that your intended outcome is what actually happens.

Why does this matter?

But why does this matter? Who cares whether you have a really good sense of how others see you, or whether you are happy being a superhero in your own eyes?

The research shows that people who are self-aware are:

• More fulfilled

• More creative

• More confident

• Better communicators

• Less likely to lie, cheat, steal

• Better performers and more promotable

• And have stronger relationships

So, there is a good case for being more self-aware. And I am sure that you know someone who thinks they are self-aware, but in fact, is not. Sometimes interacting with them can be, at best, embarrassing, and at worst, disastrous. Nobody wants to be the person happily tripping through life thinking they are great, when everyone around them is experiencing something quite different.

In her book Insight: The Surprising Truth About How Others See Us, How We See Ourselves, and Why the Answers Matter More Than We Think, Tasha Eurich shares that in studies she has undertaken, when asked, 95% of people identify themselves as self-aware.

But when the individuals were tested for self-awareness, it turns out that only 10 – 15% actually ARE.

Which says that some 80-85% of us aren’t even aware that we aren’t aware! That’s a problem.

So, just saying, …. statistically, chances are that you are not as self-aware as you think you are.

Seeing the incredible growth and change – dare I say transformation – of people who have an opportunity to increase their self-awareness and are open to that opportunity cements for me the value in taking this journey. For some the ride is rocky – they learn things that they don’t want to, or don’t like – but so worthwhile. For others, it is just exciting “aha” after “aha”. And for many, it is a slow and powerful progression towards the person they want to become.

Learning who you are and how you show up gives you:

· The opportunity to change the narrative

· Much more flexibility in how you approach other, challenges and opportunities, and

· The chance to be a better leader.

And, I do wonder, how much better might we be at helping others in their development if we have a decent amount of self-awareness? Is it fair to be telling others how they can be better, or do better when we don’t know how we ourselves are doing?

In terms of the realms referenced in the earlier blog post, this whole exploration is part of the “manage yourself” realm. I believe that this is foundational to being a good manager, a good leader, and a good employee.

For more information on how I can help, click here.

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