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The importance of Self-Awareness

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What is self-awareness?

This is unknown territory for many. In school we are seldom taught to do deep reflection. As we get older and become adults we get caught in the cycle of productivity and consumption. As a result self reflection becomes something to be avoided so as not to slow one down. Self-awareness means knowing one’s self at a deep level. This includes as Jung suggested the shadow side which is everything in us that is unconscious, repressed, undeveloped, and denied.

Without this deep awareness of who we are these ignored feelings can surface in actions later and cause conflicts. Deep awareness includes understanding ourselves. No one is perfect and a deep understanding of ourselves, our fears, the things which excite us can all help us to live in the greater world and in harmony with others. Self-awareness also includes the basics such as being clear about what we like to do and what we don’t like. It can include feelings about events and how they impacted and changed us. Self-awareness can just be understanding and feeling comfortable with one’s self behavior.

What does self-awareness have to do with management?

A manager’s day is filled with lots of change and decision making. Many of these decisions include people. Every behavior by a manager has the potential to have a big impact on others. The self-aware manager understands this and thinks through decisions and communications with others before acting. The self-aware manager tends to be calmer, have more empathy, and able to think through challenges much better. The self-aware manager is able to think from the other’s perspective which helps in people relationships, communications, and decision making.

The effect of a self-aware manager

First, they are more confident. The self-aware manager knows he is not perfect and yet with self-awareness comes the confidence to make decisions and communicate their intentions to others. For people who work for a self-aware manager there is more joy at work. People feel listened to, treated fair, and in general they have a role model of personal development. This is important as teaching others how to develop and motivate themselves is a critical responsibility of a manager.

The danger of managers who avoid self-reflection

We can see this daily in many organizations.  Decisions made without consulting others, autocratic leadership, policies aimed to catch people doing the wrong thing, and other related aspects of theory x managers (assuming if left alone people will do bad things). The result is a culture of poor morale, limited creative thinking, and risk taking. All of the above can bring down an organization and impact the bottom line.

The self-aware organization

When managers are role modeling self-awareness the whole organization takes on a similar behavior. People invest more time to get to know themselves. The organization offers personal development education and encourages growth and development. Customers get better service with employees who are more confident, calmer, and clearer about who they are and what they do.

Self-Awareness and the impact on groups

When the organization supports personal growth and self-awareness the overall group tends to help each other out more. People tend to show more care towards others, conflict at work is decreased and overall people get along better.

First steps towards becoming more self-aware

Ask yourself these questions:  Who am I? What do I love to do? Which fears do I have about my life and what can I do about it? Who do I love in my life and why? Which things give me the most joy? Which activities cause me the most anxiety and what can I do about it? What is most important to me and how do I follow what is most important? Lastly, which goals can I put in motion to align to what is most important?

The payback to better decision making

Self-aware managers make better decisions. Why? They tend to be more reflective, taking more time to think through implications of their actions. Self-aware managers think more from a systems view. They understand how their decisions and behavior impact the whole system and others.

The payback to society

The self-aware manager contributes more to society through actions and role modeling. Society over time benefits the most. Programs and strategies for building society take into account human factors and implications. There is more emphasis on understanding all the parts and how they make up the whole system. This type of thinking impacts decisions, strategies, and where we place our focus and effort.

Craig Nathanson

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