The Ultimate Soft Skill
Self-awareness… how important is it? Being self-aware enables us to balance our convictions with humility. Those who lack self-awareness may find it difficult to live a truly happy and productive life. This can be a significant challenge to overcome, as many societies and cultures encourage us to ignore our feelings and emotions. Examples of this include people who stay in jobs they find unfulfilling, or in relationships in which they are not happy.
Self-awareness allows us to be more realistic about ourselves and our judgments. It allows for our vision, while being willing to actively listen to new ideas and opinions. In turn, others trust and respect us. But here’s the flipside: When we lack self-awareness—about 70 percent of us, according to research—we may appear less credible because others are more cognizant of our strengths and weaknesses. In other words, we don't know what we don't know.
This occurs because most of the time, our thoughts are driven by the subconscious, which houses our upbringing, life experiences and perceptions. That doesn’t make us right or wrong. It’s simply how we see the world.
The workplace has evolved into a network of interpersonal dynamics that can’t be ignored. It’s relationships that allow people to participate fully in team projects, show appreciation for others, and enlist support for their own projects. It’s important that we recognize how vital this soft skill is.
How often do we hear of a business that values self-awareness among its leaders and actively promotes feedback? Research by the Korn Ferry Institute found that “companies with higher rates of return on stock also have employees with few personal blind spots.” In other words, there is a correlation between self-awareness in leaders and overall financial performance.
Assessment Tools for Self-Awareness
Of the larger Fortune 500 organizations, about 60 percent embrace assessment tools for self-awareness. More than 40 million people have utilized them to improve communication, decrease misunderstanding, lessen conflict, drive cooperation and productivity, and improve financial performance. Some common models include the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Insights Discovery System and DISC.
While these tools are commonly understood as a type of personality test, they are actually a type of behavioral assessment. Understanding this difference is critical. Personality is who we are, while behavior is what we do.
A behavioral style is how we prefer to act and communicate. We want to be understood, not stereotyped. Most assessment tools center on a four-quadrant model which measures the degree of four behavioral traits (although the wording can vary). These traits are:
- Steadiness, and
It’s important to note that when used correctly, the assessment tool is non-judgmental. It does not measure skills, IQ or EQ, nor does it predict performance. It simply helps people discuss differences.
Invest in Professional Help
A certified workshop facilitator can be invaluable in providing feedback to enhance your level of self-awareness. Human behavior is not cut-and-dry; most individuals exhibit of a combination of styles. Considering someone's primary, secondary, tertiary and even absent behaviors allows us to see their unique blend. Models such as DISC measure extroversion or introversion, being a thinker or feeler, and preferring tasks over people. These all work when we are aware of ourselves and others.
Self-awareness workshops using assessment tools can be very beneficial to an organization. If management is on board and there is efficient and thorough follow-through, these tools can be invaluable assets to successful companies, large or small. Be aware, however, that certain mistakes have been noted when using behavioral profiles: ignoring the profile results, excusing inappropriate behavior due to profile results, or considering the results a “complete” personality profile. Keep in mind that with each assessment tool, follow-up must occur. Workshops are not the end of this journey.
The impact of self-awareness on business performance is powerful. Self-awareness contributes to a better employee experience, which in turn leads to stronger engagement and drives performance. Behavioral assessments are a great start in building a more complete picture of the differences among people; the addition of other sciences into the formula is a nice complement.
People are three-dimensional. Life can be messy and complicated, but self-awareness is foundational. iBi
Chuck Rice is CEO of BRIO Employee Development LLC, a licensed practitioner in Insights Discovery and DISC, and a certified Mindfulness Ambassador.