• Alan Shoebridge

Self-awareness: Build this essential workplace skill in 3 steps


One of the most difficult things for many people to do is admit when they are NOT good at something directly related to their job. Oh sure, we’ll joke about not being good at returning emails, missing voicemails or always running late for meetings. I’m not talking about those transgressions. Those are the easy ones.


I’m talking about the flaws we hate to admit, or much worse, we don’t even recognize in ourselves. Perhaps you are a micromanager or too hands off. Maybe you don’t like details or you spend hours crafting perfect email messages. The situations will be different for everyone and I’m not making any value judgements about those things specifically. The true danger is in not recognizing your own strengths and weaknesses, and then failing to make adjustments that will help ensure your best performance and that of your team.


In my observation, self-awareness is the most critical “soft skill” you can have in the workplace. It’s pretty darn important in all other aspects of life as well. Nothing loses my confidence faster in a leader or colleague than them saying something about themselves that just doesn’t meet anyone’s personal observation of their behavior. For instance, when the micromanager tells their team they don’t like details and then insists on reviewing and changing every single thing the team touches, credibility is lost.


I think the most effective managers and leaders regularly take stock of their personal abilities and attitudes. If you are up for the challenge, here are three easy actions to get your self-reflection process started and help build your self-awareness.


  1. Create a list. Take some time to reflect on what you enjoy and don’t enjoy doing in your current role. Preferably, this exercise should be done away from the office to limit your typical work distractions. Identify your gaps in competency, interest or ability. Explore what matters most to you and why. This article has some sample questions to ask yourself.

  2. Make adjustments. It’s surprising how often we think we have to do everything ourselves. This is even the case with tasks we hate doing, don’t have the time to do well or simply lack the basic proficiency to execute. Luckily, it’s highly likely that there is someone on your team or in your organization who would love to take on a project that drives you crazy or who excels at doing a task you haven’t been able to master. Those situations can be great development opportunities for your employees and will lighten your personal workload. All you have to do is look around and ask. For things that you enjoy or want to learn, but have been struggling with, you could also consider education and training. Other options might be finding a vendor or outside the box solution to address the situation. Get creative.

  3. Be honest. In my example earlier, the micromanager could build credibility and respect if he simply said, “Guys, I know I can get into the weeds a lot. I feel like I have to do that sometimes so I can best understand the work. If my involvement in a project gets to be too much or is becoming a distraction, let’s talk about it.” The leader’s team is still going to be frustrated from time to time, but they’ll likely be more understanding and less resentful. If you try this, be aware that you are also opening yourself up for highly personal feedback, so be prepared to take it in an open and positive way.


Parting thought:


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