self-awareness-blog

Leader, Know Thyself: Self-Awareness and Performance

By Dr. Julia A. West

What do all consistent high performers and effective and successful leaders have in common?

These people know themselves.

Research shows a profound link between high performance and self-awareness, with the benefit of seeing yourself clearly showing up through promotions, general work output, and even company profit. A recent analysis by the Harvard Business Review showed that emotional intelligence is a top-needed quality for C-Suite employees—companies want leaders who are skilled communicators, relationship builders, and people-oriented problem solvers.

On a larger professional scale, self-awareness is one of five component areas famed psychologist Dr. Daniel Goleman pioneered in his theory of Emotional Intelligence, alongside self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skill. While technical skills and intelligence are important, emotional intelligence will truly allow you to reach peak performance.

What is Self-Awareness?

“I think self-awareness is probably the most important thing towards being a champion.” –Billie Jean King

So, what even is self-awareness? Great question! A popular buzzword that’s easy to drop into a conversation, many don’t know the whole definition of self-awareness: the ability to both understand and recognize your emotions, reactions, moods, and drives, and how these things affect others.

Digging even deeper, self-awareness can be split into two forms—internal and external self-awareness.

Internal self-awareness includes clarity in how personal values, passions, aspirations, and reactions meld with our environment, reactions, and impact on others. Harvard Business Review researchers found that internal self-awareness is positively associated with higher job and relationship satisfaction, personal and social control, and happiness, and is negatively related to anxiety, stress, and depression.

External self-awareness, meanwhile, relates to our understanding of how others view us.

While you need both internal and external self-awareness to be successful, surprisingly few people truly possess these competencies. Following 10 investigations with nearly 5000 subjects, Dr. Tasha Eurich and her team found that while 95 percent of respondents rated themselves as being “highly self-aware,” only 10 to 15 percent of those studied actually fit the study criteria for being self-aware.

Fear not, we’ll get into how to develop your self-awareness. But before that—what does it have to do with the work we’re doing in the first place?

Self-Awareness and Neutrality

“If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.” -Dr. Daniel Goleman

At Limitless Minds, we’re all about neutral thinking. First and foremost, neutral thinkers are aware—and self-awareness is awareness! In not attempting self-reflection and understanding, you’re doing yourself a huge disservice; you can’t get to neutral and show up for the people who need you without it.

Neutrality and self-awareness overlap through one’s ability to take an unbiased, judgment-free look at oneself. A neutral thinker—and thus a self-aware thinker—will know how certain situations affect them and where their biggest skills and challenges lay. In addition, they’ll know their values and goals, helping them determine the next right steps to get there.

“People who have a high degree of self-awareness recognize how their feelings affect them, other people, and their job performance. Thus, a self-aware person who knows that tight deadlines bring out the worst in him plans his time carefully and gets his work done well in advance,” wrote Dr. Goleman in a 2004 Harvard Business Review article. “Another person with high self-awareness will be able to work with a demanding client. She will understand the client’s impact on her moods and the deeper reasons for her frustration. ‘Their trivial demands take us away from the real work that needs to be done,’ she might explain. And she will go one step further and turn her anger into something constructive.”

Regarding the two types of self-awareness, neutral thinking places just as much emphasis on how you behave as how you think. Beautifully aligned with neutral thinking’s focus on the objective facts, self-awareness asks you to remove judgment, viewing yourself exactly as you are.

Cultivating Self-Awareness

“We change as our circumstances change. We have to keep assessing ourselves honestly so we can stay self-aware as our lives evolve.” -Trevor Moawad, It Takes What It Takes

This is what you’re here for—and what we’re here to help with. Scroll to discover how to cultivate self-awareness for yourself:

Get a coach.

A coach, especially one familiar with neutrality, will help you stay on track and give you the feedback necessary to better your relationship with and understanding of yourself. It’s hard to hold up a mirror sometimes—let someone else take a little weight.

Ask for feedback.

A Forbes analysis showed an exceptionally strong correlation between a leader’s propensity for gathering feedback and their overall effectiveness. Naturally, the most successful leaders are those who regularly seek out and dig into personal feedback—from employees, peers, and those above them. This practice leads to self-awareness and, yes, better performance.

Move from “why?” questions to “what?” questions.

To think neutrally, don’t ask WHY something happened. This can lead to spinning one’s wheels… or that unhelpful type of introspection that comes close to rumination.

Instead, ask the WHAT questions.

  • What behaviors allowed me to be successful with this project?
  • What step can I take now to reduce disruption to my clients in the face of this unexpected challenge?
  • What procedure can I put into place to prevent this issue from happening again?

The WHAT questions immediately point our minds to BEHAVIORS: the necessary details that allow someone to cultivate what our late co-founder, Trevor Moawad, called conscious competence. Knowing WHAT makes you great—so you can repeat it—is the key to sustainable high performance. (Oh, and by the way, the “what” nearly always refers back to behaviors.)

Find your community.

Join us in the Club Limitless app for live daily coaching and on-demand self-awareness tools alongside a host of individuals on the same journey. Remember: self-awareness training is for everyone. You don’t have to be sick to get better.

Stay in the know.

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