How self-aware are you? In my book The Busy Leader’s Handbook, published by Wiley, Chapter 1 is titled “Strive to Be Self-Aware and Coachable.” The book is about how to lead people and places that thrive. There are 41 stand-alone chapters that provide tips for leaders in the many situations they face. Why is Chapter 1 different from the other 40 chapters? Because if someone is not self-aware and coachable, those other chapters will not have much value.
I interviewed many people while writing the book. I asked them what skills and behaviors were most important for someone in a leadership role. As I met with people, it became evident that all skills and behaviors were dependent on a person’s having good self-awareness. That is what I call the “door opener.” Without the key to open the door, we will not get inside the world of learning.
Self-awareness is the ability to hold up the mirror and see oneself objectively. It means knowing what one is good at and not good at. Self-awareness means being brave enough to be okay accepting our shortcomings. It means admitting when we are wrong. It means accepting feedback. It means taking ownership. None of this is easy. Even when a person holds up a mirror, they need help seeing certain qualities in themselves. This is where other people and self-awareness tools come in.
Over the past year, my company, Healthcare Plus Solutions Group® (HPSG), has conducted a process to assess leaders’ self-awareness. A person rates themselves on a 10-point scale on 10 leadership foundational skills. Their supervisor (one-up) rates them using the same scale on the same skill set. We then share with them the ratings. It is very normal to have a gap in perception. A person might rate themselves an 8 in a skill, and their one-up might rate them as a 6.
What we’ve learned is that there’s a lack of conversations on the subject of skills and development. This translates to a lack of needed skills in critical areas, which can lead to frustration for both parties. We have all heard of someone being let go from a job and saying they did not know it was coming. Self-awareness in the area of skill development can prevent this.
Here are some recommendations to help you own your development. These tips work whether you’re with an organization that provides development or you’re with one that does not.
- Do not wait to be developed. Make an appointment with your leader. Share that you are committed to developing your skills, that you will be grateful for their help, and that you will accept feedback. While the last one seems like common sense, it is not. I have seen people say they want feedback, and then when they receive it, they react defensively and complain to others about it. Emotional maturity is the foundation of development.
- Ask which skills your one-up sees as the most important ones at this time for you. Be prepared to share what you feel the skills are, for your one-up may ask as a way to check your awareness of the role.
- Ask what your one-up feels you do well, so you can build on your strengths.
- Ask what skills you should be most focused on and what development suggestions they may have.
- Send a thank-you note. I always recommend to people that they write a thank-you note after they attend a workshop or receive any development funded by the company. High performers naturally do this. Share what you learned and what you will put into action. This reinforces to the company and to your one-up that you’re using their investment wisely. Do the same after each supervisory session. Thank your leader and confirm next steps.
- Go to a search engine and use one of the many tools available to learn more about yourself. There are many good ones: the Predictive Index, Myers-Briggs, DISC, Management By Strengths, as well as others. These tools are fun and offer insights into one’s personality. They also help you see some items about yourself of which you may not be aware. Even if a tool doesn’t tell you anything you don’t already know, it may be helpful in revealing the degree of a strength or weakness you have.
Every company says they have certain values. A good way to measure whether or not they are walking the talk is to see the amount of skill development provided. Investing in people is the right thing to do. It is a smart thing to do. When people feel a company is investing in them, they tend to stay. Most people can do the job they have in many different places. You want people to choose to work in your place.
I’d like to close with a message of gratitude. Thank you for reading my column this year and for all the helpful feedback you’ve shared. I wish everyone a happy, healthy, and successful 2024.