I believe out of all the possible competencies a leader can develop to gain an edge in success, the one that gives the most advantage to one person over another is self-awareness.
If you don’t have much competency in self-awareness, you are clueless about the impact you have on others. There is no way you can rise to the level of CEO, let alone expect much success in the role without a generous amount of self-awareness. One reason is that at that level, very few people are willing to tell you the things that are the hardest to hear. They will rush to tell you the good stuff. In certain circumstances, they may possibly tell you, with some hedging, the bad stuff. But few have the courage to tell you the ugly stuff about the company. These are things you need to know in order to be connected to the climate of the organization. The reality of the workplace environment and condition of its atmosphere.
This vital feedback is like gold to you and you must be on the hunt for it every single day. Some employees are submissive and averse to conflict, they probably are not going to share with you these ugly details in an informal or formal discussion. They would be more comfortable doing it in an anonymous survey and doing these types of instruments annually or semi-annually is important, for sure. Equally important is your ability to seek and process this feedback as you walk the hallways of your organization.
You need to be able to demonstrate empathy and caring when you sense the other person may not enjoy the anxiousness that may come from the interaction with you, let alone sharing things they believe may upset you to hear. While you may be the most caring and concerned individual in the organization, it may not always come across in your non-verbal appearance or gestures. Your vocal tone may not be one that is warm or welcoming. You have developed a strong and authoritative stage presence in your career ascent that does not always serve you well in one on one situations.
Performing regular 360 feedback surveys with your direct reports, as well as with random individuals throughout the organization you regularly interact with is also a good way to get more pure feedback on how you are perceived and you can use this data with your coach to help you begin to develop more self-awareness and self-regulation to help you in your communications and interactions.
Developing good self-awareness will require you to move past your ego and bias and your executive coach can help you with that to challenge nasty patterns that may have to go in order to help you better succeed in this area. We have a responsibility to our organizations, to the people we lead and to ourselves to better understand who we are and how we tend to interact and lead, which is not the same as who we think we are and how we think we lead.
No self-awareness can come without taking the time, getting the feedback and creating the space to become more self-aware. This skill increase comes to those who take the opportunity to slow down and become curious about their current circumstances, patterns, reactions, beliefs, thoughts, and feelings. This can only happen when we eliminate the non-essential in favor of the essential. Increased self-awareness is indeed, very essential, in fact, we believe it’s the CEO’s number one skill.
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