05 Nov The Importance of Self-Awareness
Developing emotional intelligence competencies in ourselves and others in our organisations is not often given top priority. Many consider emotional intelligence to be a “soft skill” that in the best-case scenario is perceived as “nice to have, but not vital” and in the worse-case “touchy feely mumbo jumbo” that is “a waste of time”.
This however, could not be further from the truth. And decades of research prove this! Emotional Intelligence in the workplace is not a luxury or a gimmick; it is a very real necessity and a vast body of research, indicates a clear connection between this and organisational success. After decades of research, it is now clearer than it has ever been that individuals, teams and organisations who strive to succeed in business must develop their skill in each of the four competencies of emotional intelligence.
The first of these competencies is self-awareness, a foundational skill for building emotional intelligence. In the words of Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves; “Self-awareness is not about discovering deep, dark secrets or unconscious motivations but, rather, it comes from developing a straightforward and honest understanding of what makes you tick.” (Travis Bradberry, Jean Greaves “Emotional Intelligence 2.0”).
“Self-awareness is not about discovering deep, dark secrets or unconscious motivations but, rather, it comes from developing a straightforward and honest understanding of what makes you tick.”
In fact, individuals who develop their self-awareness are very clear about where their strengths and weaknesses lie, what motivates and satisfies them, and which people and situations trigger negative responses in them.
Consider the following description of Maria, which was provided by a member of her team. Maria is a Human Resources Manager with a high sense of self-awareness.
“In every situation that I have been involved with, good or bad, Maria has always remained calm, cool, and collected—even at times when I know she must have felt frustrated or angry. Maria is really honest about what she is feeling without getting bent out of shape about it. When faced with a difficult situation, she knows how to be firm and still kind at the same time.” She is open and authentic at all times, and it is so meaningful to everyone that she interacts with. I would suggest that Maria not change: however, she can get a bit tougher sooner in some cases. She is aware of this and watches to ensure that she does not let kindness get in the way …People here trust her.” (Travis Bradberry, Jean Greaves “Emotional Intelligence 2.0”).
Maria is able to achieve success with her team because she is aware of her emotions and her responses to these, she recognises her strengths, her weaknesses and works hard to stop her weaknesses from getting in the way of her doing a good job.
Compare the case of Maria to that of Tina J, a marketing manager with a poor level of self-awareness. This is what a member of Tina’s team said:
“On occasion, Tina’s stress and sense of urgency are projected/ pushed on to other people. It would be good for her to better understand how her behavior affects others’ work and emotional stress. Also, she sometimes comes across as defensive or aggressive, so for her to be more aware of her tone and language would be helpful. When things are going well for Tina, her emotional intelligence skills are stronger. She needs to learn to read herself and recognize her triggers so that she can respond more effectively when triggered. She needs to become aware of how she is perceived. She can come across as being very demanding, but I don’t believe she means to.” (Travis Bradberry, Jean Greaves “Emotional Intelligence 2.0”.
Unfortunately, this description is not an atypical of managers in organisations the world over. Like so many managers I come across, Tina does not recognise her emotions and allows them to transmit to her team and other people around her, making them feel uncomfortable, negative or stressed. Furthermore, she does not have an accurate picture of how her team, peers and other stakeholders see her. If left unaddressed, these issues could prevent Tina from developing fully as a manager and from achieving high performance and success with her team.
Indeed, substantial research substantiates the claim that self-awareness is a precursor to successful management of the people in our teams. Studies show that leaders who demonstrate self-awareness, are better able to create a positive, energizing work environment characterised by high-performance and financial success. Like Maria, they know how to build relationships based on trust with those around them and how to motivate, engage and inspire others.
Developing self-awareness also allows us to achieve the following:
• Develop self-confidence and credibility
• Become comfortable giving and receiving feedback, (even when this difficult)
• Develop a sense of commitment and accountability in others
• Build trust and respect
• Lead, support and develop others
Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom - Aristotle
In conclusion, when trying to develop our management skills, the first step is to increase our self-awareness. In the words of the great philosopher Aristotle, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom” and in consequence, the beginning of all success. This is true for us as managers, but also for us in most all other roles we play in our lives – spouse, parent, friend, teacher, learner etc.
The good news is that with commitment and effort we can develop our self-awareness. If you are interested in learning how, tune into our next issue when we will look at some of the things we can to do to increase our self-awareness.
EIMF Expert Trainer