How to Improve YOUR Emotional Self-Awareness

By , July 3, 2012 3:36 pm

“No creature can fly with just one wing. Gifted leadership occurs where heart and head – feeling and thought – meet. These are the two wings that allow a leader to soar.”

Daniel Goleman, Author

Many years ago I worked as a Management Development Manager for the chartered airline of a large holiday company in the UK. One day I was asked to coach a manager (John) who’d been accused of bullying his staff. He seemed confused by the whole thing.

On further investigation I realized what had happened…

John was asked to be a leader and given a team of engineers to manage.  He was ‘promoted’ to management because of his amazing technical expertise as an engineer. He knew everything about the aircraft he worked on and was a point of reference for others. John had great value as a technical expert. He loved his job.

…Then he was promoted to leader… No one had taught him how to manage people. He was used to managing aircraft…a totally different skill-set! During his entire career John had been taught how to develop his technical expertise – now he had to deal with humans! He had no frame of reference and didn’t know how to do it.

Knowledge, skills, technical ability, conceptual thinking, clarity and intelligence are often seen as the key characteristics for leadership.

However, this is only half of the picture…

You may have great knowledge, skills and technical experience but this alone won’t make you a leader. You might have the best ideas in the world, but if you can’t execute your vision by guiding, inspiring, motivating, listening, influencing, and engaging others your ideas will stay just as ideas… no one will listen.

Self-awareness is often ignored in the business world. It’s not seen as important because we are often too busy doing the work and being busy to stop, recognize and understand our own emotions or the impact that they have on our actions and results. Intellect rules in the business world!

Unfortunately sometimes these actions and results have a negative effect on your relationships or job performance. You are oblivious to your own feelings and unaware of how other people might feel. Unknowingly you let anger build up until it reaches boiling point – then you lash out at someone. This is what happened to John – he was doing the best he could with the resources he had. He’d learned all about leading with the head and thought because his technical career guided him down that route alone.

If you are unaware of your own emotions you can’t manage them and this distorts how you view and respond to situations. If you lack self-awareness then you are oblivious to your own feelings or those of others around you. You are unaware of how your emotions affect your job performance.

Self-awareness has a critical role to play in leading a successful life. It influences our behaviour (what we do, what we say and how we act).

Becoming self-aware means that you are in tune with your inner signals:  you connect with yourself from the inside out.

Here’s what having self awareness means…

1. You have a deeper understanding of YOU – You can recognize your own emotions, values and motives. You know how your emotions can trigger and impact your behaviour. You know what motivates you and you move towards it at work or at home. You have a passion for your work and enjoy it.

2. You are more realistic – Perception is reality. We judge other people by their actions; we judge ourselves by our intention. People who have high levels of self-awareness are more realistic because they are honest with themselves and others. Their actions match their intentions. You know your limitations and play to your strengths.

3. You are less critical of YOU – Awareness brings honesty. People who are self-aware don’t take things personally and get defensive. They are able to laugh at themselves and be more forgiving. You embrace being imperfectly perfect! You speak openly about your emotions. You demonstrate a grace when learning about areas that you need to improve on and encourage feedback. You ask for help.

4. You have vision and focus – You can articulate your goals, values and dreams. You know where you’re headed. You know your WHY… You know what matters the most and have a clear map to build your future.

5. You are connected to your intuition –You are tuned in to what feels right and this helps you in your decision-making because you are aligned to your values. Attuning your feelings helps you find meaning and make better decisions. You make time for self-reflection and to think things over. You respond, rather than react, to your surroundings.

Having self-awareness enables you to consciously act from a place of authenticity and conviction. Understanding your emotions and having clarity of purpose help you to focus and achieve your goals.

3 Responses to “How to Improve YOUR Emotional Self-Awareness”

  1. 2gnoME says:

    Great article! What do you think about having a different perception of yourself than how your friends and peers see you? We would love your feedback of our site where we are helping people gain self-knowledge around this!


  2. elaine says:

    Hi there! Thanks! I’ll be writing about this real soon!

  3. Aizada Khalimbetova says:

    Good morning Elaine,

    It really is a great article. It seems to sum up all my readings on how to improve my self-awareness.

    thanks a lot.

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