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Creating Successful Leaders

If you’re hoping to improve yourself this year, one of the fundamental steps you can take is to build your self-awareness. Even if you think you know yourself decently well, you can always dig deeper. What’s more, it’s possible you’ve changed a bit over the years (or even in the last year!), and it’s a good idea to become reacquainted with the new you.

Why work on self-awareness?

Becoming self-aware will not only help to improve yourself, your communication, your skillsets, etc., it will also benefit those around you. When you understand, for instance, that you do your best work when you collaborate with others and communicate openly and frequently, you can voice those preferences to others.

Another example: If you’re introspective and like to think about every angle of a problem before proposing a solution, it’s a good idea to let others know that as well. In a team meeting, you might say something like, “These are all great questions. I’d like to mull them over and take a look at the data before offering my ideas.” By articulating your preferences, others will begin to understand that you’re not just sitting silently in meetings because you have nothing to contribute. You just prefer to assess all the data before speaking up.

By becoming self-aware, you also equip yourself with some extra empathy. You start to realize that not everyone enjoys working, communicating, thinking, or interacting in the same manner. Whereas you might prefer swift action and timely results, others may find comfort in taking their time and exploring multiple angles of a problem before acting. By learning more about your own preferences, you also open yourself up to the idea that not everyone thinks or acts in the way you do, and that is okay.

How do you increase self-awareness?

That is the question, isn’t it? You can’t just snap your fingers and become more self-aware overnight. It’s a process that involves paying attention, retrospection, and reflection. To get started on your journey to greater self-awareness, you might consider taking an evaluative test. Though this may seem like a simplistic approach, it’s really not. Assessment tests (ones used by professionals, at least) can be incredibly insightful and thought-provoking. Not all tests are created equal, so do a little research before you pick you. My favorite is Insights Discovery®, for a few different reasons:

1) It’s science-based and relies on principles of famed psychiatrist Carl Jung.

2) The findings are presented in easy to understand, easy to discuss language.

3) Insights® does not pigeonhole people or claim that a person is ONE specific way, ALL the time. Rather, it emphasizes that people tend to lean toward certain tendencies and behaviors, and all are capable of embracing their opposite tendencies from time to time (e.g. Those who are usually introverted have the capability of developing or “turning on” extroverted behavior).

Beyond using assessment tests, you could also read books dedicated to self-awareness (The Untethered Soul and Emotional Agility come to mind, but there are MANY books on this topic). You could also work with a coach, counselor, or other professional to help guide you down the right path.

Lastly, building self-awareness takes time and effort. You’ll need to make a conscious effort to really sit down, examine yourself and your behaviors, and think about what steps you can take, going forward. And remember: Being self-aware is a great first step, but it’s not quite enough. Once you’ve gained a little more self-awareness, it’s up to you to do something with your newfound knowledge. Lean on your strengths. Articulate your work and communication preferences. Acknowledge the areas where you struggle and strategize on how to improve them.

Self-improvement is a never-ending journey, and self-awareness is but one important step on that road.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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