When someone raises the topic of self-awareness, they are usually talking about personal relationships. While it's true that self-awareness is vital to healthy interpersonal bonds, the benefits of self-awareness also extend to the workplace. Research has shown that employees with high self-awareness make stronger leaders with greater chances for career advancement. Boosting your self-awareness usually starts with self-assessment, so if you find yourself taking quizzes to evaluate your own self-awareness or chatting with other women about getting in tune with your feelings and behaviors, you're on the right track!
To learn more about self-awareness at work, InHerSight spoke with Shelley Smith, a workplace culture expert and founder/CEO of Premier Rapport, a well-established consulting firm that offers executive coaching services. Smith's take on boosting self-awareness and making it work for you is bound to change your outlook on career and personal success.
What is self-awareness?
Self-awareness can be hard to define, but it all comes down to understanding who you are, what you value, and how you interact with others. Smith defines self-awareness as a great understanding of your "personal hardwiring." She says that a cornerstone of self-awareness is "knowing your triggers and having the ability to adjust, pivot, or simply set your needs on the shelf to best motivate others in order to achieve your goals." In 2019, a study conducted by InHerSight concluded that 73 percent of women want to change careers —an endeavor that is much easier when you are aware of the professional strengths you possess.
Why is self-awareness important?
Self-awareness enables women to lead more fulfilling lives and careers, which most women can agree is a lifelong priority. Smith says boosting your self-awareness is also important because it allows you to gain perspective. "Without self-awareness, you only see and act through your own lens versus others," she says. "Your respect factor may be off; your unconscious bias may be on when you are unaware of your own view let alone others."
What's more, women who are more self-aware are able to manage their feelings and behaviors, which is beneficial in personal relationships. Employees who maintain healthy relationships with friends, family members, and romantic partners are more likely to have fewer distractions at work, better support systems, and a stronger drive to excel in the workplace.
How can you boost your self-awareness?
Once you understand what self-awareness is and why it's important, explore some practical ways to increase it. One way is to seek feedback from trustworthy friends or mentors. Whether you find yourself engaging with like-minded professionals in your network or exploring InHerSight's community of women, you can assess your own thoughts, feelings, and opinions by talking to other women. In turn, you can enhance your own personal reflection, which is critical to self-awareness.
Smith's advice? Assess your strengths and weaknesses. "Take a scientifically proven behavioral assessment like the Predictive Index." Smith, who administers the Predictive Index to help company leaders analyze and enhance the strengths of their employees, knows firsthand how useful self-assessment can be. She also suggests taking the EQi assessment, which measures your emotional intelligence. These assessments are designed to give you further insight into your own behavioral patterns and help you boost your self-awareness.
Smith also suggests getting an executive coach. Executive coaches are qualified to help you become more self-aware, set goals, and devise strategies to enrich your life and career.
You can also improve your sense of self by remembering that self-awareness is a skill. Like any other skill, self-awareness must be developed over time. Take advantage of personal and professional opportunities, such as workshops, journaling exercises, and leadership programs, to become a more mindful version of yourself. Keep in mind that, even as you succeed in your life and career, you will occasionally experience setbacks. "Even though I may stumble, being more self-aware allows me to better listen, engage, collaborate, create, pivot with grace, stop assuming, and lowers my frustrations and stress," Smith says.
How can I use self-awareness as a tool in my life and career?
One of the coolest things about increasing your self-awareness is that you can be of service to other women. "Self-awareness isn't an ego thing,” Smith says. “The more you understand yourself, the greater your awareness is to lean into others' needs with grace." She adds that greater self-awareness leads to "greater respect, greater influencing ability, greater intentionality, greater achievement of goals." As you get to know yourself, you empower other women to do the same. Take note of the strategies that have worked for you in becoming more self-aware; share those strategies with women you mentor, network with, and talk to in personal and professional settings.
If you've taken a self-assessment within the past year, retake it and interpret your results. If you have any trouble, consult a career coach, executive coach, or mental health professional. Once you have a clear interpretation, note some conclusions you can make about your personality, motives, and behavioral patterns. Be prepared to talk about your findings in interviews, during networking events, and social gatherings. Self-awareness as a tool is only as effective as you make it, so be proactive in getting to know yourself. After all, the relationship you have with yourself is the longest and most important relationship you'll ever have.