The essential skill an MBA won’t teach you
Self-awareness is the ability to be fully in tune with your feelings, thoughts, and actions. As a busy, working parent myself, there is so much else to focus on, whether it’s making the grocery list or worrying about climate change and how it will impact my child’s future. Add in a global pandemic and a historically contentious U.S. election, and it almost seems comical to make time to reflect on my own thoughts and behaviors.
At THNK, however, we know that self-awareness is essential to becoming an effective leader. Self-aware leaders know their own abilities and limitations and better understand how their words and actions impact others. In fact, skills like self-awareness and emotional intelligence are becoming increasingly sought after in the job market while they remain mostly absent in traditional management and business education.
The good news is that self-awareness can be taught and practiced. To get you started, here are three ways you can start building greater self-awareness:
1. Develop a daily reflection habit
Reflection is a key component of self-awareness. Great leaders build awareness of their motivations, fears, and vulnerabilities by reflecting on their life stories, their successes, and their failures. Adopting a daily introspective practice like meditation, journaling, or walking in nature can help you better understand your actions and decisions on a day-to-day basis.
“I meditate every morning,” says THNKer Samantha Yarwood. “I also try to take three walks a day without my phone to connect with myself and nature. And lastly, before reacting, I try to STOP (stop, take a deep breath, and proceed with kindness). I’ve found meditation has helped me not react to everything, but to create distance and awareness to my emotions and thoughts.”
2. Seek honest feedback
As a leader, receiving honest feedback can be difficult. Anonymous, 360-degree feedback is the gold standard. However, to truly cultivate self-awareness, you will need to receive genuine feedback more frequently than an annual 360 survey.
At THNK, we believe that feedback is an invaluable form of intelligence that helps us uncover our blind spots. In addition to asking for verbal feedback, we encourage leaders to interpret non-verbal feedback like facial expressions and gestures. Start paying attention to signs that may signal someone on your team is disengaged, frustrated, confused, or uncertain, and then ask them about it directly. By inviting feedback based on these non-verbal cues, you are more likely to build trust and create a safe space for offering genuine feedback.
3. Lead mindfully
Mindfulness is a popular topic these days and can be defined simply as the act of noticing things. Practicing mindfulness can involve learning breathing methods, participating in guided meditation, and even taking intensive courses. Mindfulness can also mean being fully present in the current moment and tuning out distractions to focus on what you are feeling and thinking.
I asked several members of the THNK Community how they bring mindfulness to their leadership and their answers show the variety of ways you can practice more mindfulness:
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