Recently, I was talking with a CEO of a digital product company who said he wished that his super tech savvy employees were more self-aware. This started me thinking about what exactly self-awareness is and why he thinks this is so valuable in the workplace.
One approach to self-awareness has to do with soft skills, which happens to be the area in which I work. Softs skills are all the skills that you need to manage yourself, other people and projects. This includes cognitive (thinking skills), interpersonal and intrapersonal skills.
On a very basic level, this kind of self-awareness can be gauged in the responses to the 4 most typical, deceptively simple, interview questions:
- Tell me about yourself
- What are your strengths?
- What are your weaknesses or gaps?
- What value do you bring to your organization (company or school)
What happens when you are not self aware?
When things go wrong, you may find yourself blindsided not knowing why something has happened. When things go well, you may suffer from “imposter syndrome” and not feel deserving of the success or accolades.
Not being aware of strengths and gaps can leave people in a state of feeling perpetually defensive and, more importantly, not being able to grow personally or professionally.
What is it like to be self aware?
When you have an awareness of your strengths and gaps and what value you can contribute, it sets the stage for growth. Imagine you are an athlete on a team. The better you know your skill strengths, and gaps, the better you can contribute to the team. Others will also know when they can lean on you or when they need to give you a hand.
With skills confidence, you can be more open and vulnerable because people are not going to tell you anything that you don’t already know!
Five Benefits of Self-Awareness
1. It helps you to be more efficient and productive.
It can help you decide how to tackle a project, taking advantage of your best strengths. Knowing your strengths and gaps, will help you strategically decide how and where to focus your energy.
2. It helps you set specific and realistic goals.
If you know that you are not musical but want to learn to play the piano—you should either have modest expectations or know that you will need to work extra hard because progress may not come easy.
3. It helps you know when to ask for help.
If there is a project at work where you need to code something and then make a presentation, you can look at the different tasks and say, “I am really good at coding, that is going to be easy. However, presenting scares the crap out of me.” Instead of avoiding that task, you will know that you need to allocate more time and a different approach to preparing and execution of this task.
4. It will contribute to your success and happiness.
When you have greater skills awareness, you will confidently be able to look at a project, or a social situation and say, “I know I can do this or I know what I need in order to do this.”
5. It will make you a better teammate, colleague, collaborator.
A team requires a range of skill strengths. No one is strong in everything which is why we have teams in the first place! Being self-aware about your strengths and gaps helps make your team more successful. It may also encourage others around you to develop their self-awareness as well.
Five tips for developing self-awareness
1. Educate yourself about the range of soft skills that employers and entrepreneurs in your field value. Research the 5 key soft skills in your field of work.
2. Conduct an inventory of strengths (and blindspots).
Try answering the 4 most common interview questions:
- Tell me about yourself
- What are your strengths
- Where are your gaps?
- What value do you bring to an organization?
How difficult was this to answer?
3. Seek feedback. Organizational psychologist, Tasha Eurich in her book, Insight, suggests to “seek honest feedback from loving critics”.
4. Journal reflections regarding weekly challenges and successes. Challenge yourself to continue to learn and grow by making small changes in the coming week.
5. Use “deliberate” practice. It is very difficult to improve if you are not self-aware. If you want to produce results, you need to have a focused, targeted effort.
Self-awareness may not be a cure all, however it does have undeniable benefits. It will help you be more focused with your energy, will help you be more productive and efficient, will make you a better collaborator, will help you increase your confidence, expertise and help you reach your goals.
Do you agree with Tasha Eurich that self-awareness is your hidden superpower?