Do you know who people in your workplace really see you? If you haven't got self-awareness at work, you might be holding yourself back.
We have all heard much about the need for self-awareness to be successful both at work and in relationships. Indeed, the very notion of being aware of ourselves is grounded in deep theory and every leadership programme includes a module on this topic.
It sounds relatively simple; after all, we have been with ourselves from birth and we know our inner-most thoughts and feelings. We have developed our ability to adapt to people and situations so that we can successfully get through life and work. So, we probably know ourselves well.
But what are our natural preferences? Think about writing your signature – when you write with your preferred hand, it flows easily and looks well. When you write your signature with the other hand, it feels awkward, takes much more effort and doesn’t really look great. The key message was that you can do both and both options achieve the result, but one is more natural. Imagine if we looked at diversity in this way? All options work, but some are more natural to us individually.
Start by looking at where you get your energy from – the external world; from nature; others; from your internal thoughts and ideas; or taking ideas into your inner world and contemplating before you share. In brainstorming sessions, for example, adding in quiet breaks ensures that those who are thinking internally get a chance to bring their great ideas to bear as well as those who enjoy the external debate in the room. This idea that some of us thrive with others around us while others thrive in the quietness of our thinking reminds us that true inclusion is about building thinking spaces that work for both types of person.
The Power of Influence
A key skill for us all is influencing, and two important aspects can really impact on our ability to influence. The first is the fact that we naturally tend to absorb information in different ways – some start with the big picture, and then get into the detail; while others start with details and then build the big picture later. The difference between preferred specifics and patterns is quite amazing. On the one hand, those with a preference for the big picture will see patterns and connections clearly and often create amazing ideas early on, whilst those with a preference for specifics will see all the facts including the detailed ones that others might miss. Imagine preparing to influence someone by knowing their preference and adapting your pitch to cater to just that. How efficient and harmonious our conversations would be!
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The second aspect is the process you use to make decisions – is it your tendency to use objective logic with a focus on consistent principles or to be guided by personal values and focus on harmony? This is probably an easier preference to identify as we see it all the time – described as thinkers or feelers. But again, how would you approach a conversation with someone who has a different natural tendency to your own?
Frameworks such as these are often criticised, in that they can be seen
as labels or not grounded in strong theory. But here’s what is interesting
– if a certain framework can help us understand and therefore respond to others in a better way, then why not take the goodness and use that wisely?
Having a framework results in a much deeper understanding of our context and that understanding lessens our judgement of others. There is no right or wrong; we may have a tendency or a natural preference for one approach, but can do both. The idea that others may have a different approach and that both can be valid is an impactful one in terms of how to be successful at work, but maybe even more importantly, how we might think about diversity and inclusion in the future.
So, thinking about your own awareness, can you clearly articulate which world energises you? How do you take in information? How do you make decisions? And even more importantly – how do you know if your view of yourself is accurate? How do you re-acquaint yourself with your sub-conscious every now and again? The secret may lie in your self-awareness.
Adrienne Harrington is the President of Network Ireland West Cork, and Sarah Abbott is an founder and business coach at The People Practise.
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