9 Expert Questions and one handy Diagram for Building great Self-Awareness
The best starting point for any development and growth at work, whether as a leader, a team member or just as your individual self, is the place of “self-awareness”.
And I’m talking here of self-awareness in a wide sense.
If you’re looking at self-awareness just as an emotional intelligence tool, then you’ll be focussed too narrowly, just on the awareness of your own feelings. What I want you to get, is a self-awareness about the whole you. That’ll include your drives, flaws, experiences, ambitions, assumptions, patterns of behaviour, values, resourcefulness and more. But also, and maybe more importantly, the big picture of what it’s like to be you. And what’s it like to experience who you are.
This kind of deep self-awareness really is essential to any kind of development. It’ll answer questions right down at a tactical level about what you want to be doing with your time and effort and how best to interact with the world. And it’ll act as a kind of beacon, keeping you heading towards the more important, bigger picture of what you’re about.
Sometimes this kind of self-awareness is forced upon us when something we’re trying to achieve goes wrong. Then we have to re-assess things on a personal level. And at other times, self-awareness comes out of a ‘gap’, a sense that something’s missing or unfulfilled.
Overcoming the uneasiness and discomfort around this kind of self-knowledge is important both to make sense of what’s happened so far and to move forward.
If you wanted to get some more self-awareness without being forced into it by that kind of circumstance, how would you go about it?
One of the best ways is to pretend to be your own observer.
Check out the diagram alongside. (If you click it and then right-click it, you should be able to download a copy.)
First, imagine ‘seeing’ a version of yourself. Get a sense of who this person is, and what’s important to them.
Second, imagine you could observe how this person goes about interacting with the world about them and with other people.
There are many things you could be observing and getting a sense of, but to get you started here’s some of the things I’ll typically be asking my clients about to help them develop their self-awareness. We talk about them as if they were another person, so instead of saying “what’s important to you”, I’ll get them to practice being an impartial observer of themselves by asking, “what’s important to this person?”.
Here’s some of the aspects you might be considering as you pretend to observe yourself. It’s a fairly long and deep list, so don’t feel you have to get all of this straight away:
- What kind of things are really important to this person?
- What’s the story of how they got to where they are today? And what did they have to overcome, sacrifice or achieve to get here?
- What are they like, at their absolute best?
- What qualities do they have that make them a resourceful person? What personal attributes, skills and knowledge can they call upon?
- What holds them back or keeps them stuck?
- As they interact with the world, how clear are they about what outcomes they want?
- Thinking of a specific interaction that you want to understand more about, what was their intention at the outset? Did what they wanted to have happen, actually happen?
- How wide is the range of choices they have about how they approach things; do they have one typical way of operating or a wider range?
- What are some of the assumptions, hidden beliefs or ‘rules’ that they have about the world, about themselves and about others?