Oh what power the giftie gie us, to see ourselves as others see us…”
This line from a famous 18th Century Scottish poet claims it’s a gift to be able to see ourselves through the eyes of others. Seeing the strengths as well as the areas we need to improve is imperative to us because a lack of self-awareness can be a career and life saboteur.
I was with a business owner who asked me for advice on how to grow her image consulting business. She shared that she is targeting more conservative businesses who may have challenges with team members and executives who stray from the boundaries of professional dress and presence. As she talked, my eyes were drawn to her nose ring. Even though it was a tiny one, I had to tactfully lead her to see that body piercings and tattoos might not be in favor for the executive decision makers in her target market. If she wanted to wear it socially, that’s fine. My point was she may want to leave it behind during business hours because it’s misaligned with the very thing she’s working on with others. “How did she miss that?” I’ve asked in my head repeatedly since our meeting.
My calling as a coach can be the greatest one on the planet, yet it can sometimes be trying in helping others see themselves through a lens different than their own. Often we refer to this limitation as a “blind spot” and it can prevent any of us from seeing our own weaknesses. That’s when coaching becomes most opportunistic – helping those who have risen to top positions in their organizations recognize that they, like everyone else, have areas to work on.
Denial runs hard and deep. Continued reinforcement with better pay or title may cause a leader to feel they are doing everything right, or else they wouldn’t be at such a coveted place. Lack of candid feedback from stakeholders can also lull one into a false sense of security. And, admittedly, want so desperately to be right, that the thought of having any areas to address may cause us to have to realign who we thought we were, and that could be… well… wildly unsettling and comfortable.
3 Signs You’re Lacking Self-Awareness
Here are just three of the major signs that we may not be self-aware:
1- Defensiveness – When we feel angry or defensive and immediately jump into asking questions or sharing “reasons” as to why the behavior being addressed was exhibited, it’s one sign that self-awareness may have taken a sabbatical.
2- Avoidance – When confronted with an issue to address, we might say, “Sure” or “Absolutely.” Yet if we do the opposite or change nothing – that’s avoidance. Often, if an outside party such as another leader or coach reaches out to assist, and there’s no response or a delayed one, this can signal passive aggressive behavior demonstrating resistance to any change. We can’t change what we refuse to see.
3- Deflecting – Occasionally I meet with leaders in organizations who want to talk about everyone on their team but themselves. Focusing on others to the extent we can develop them more or have greater insight to their issue is a productive use of time. However, the ultimate goal in “healing thyself” (Socrates), is to focus on how our own strengths are working well and how our areas of weakness are getting in the way of being the best WE can be.
Do you see any of these in yourself when you look in the mirror?
Open Up Your Self-Awareness
Consider these options as ways to move into more self-awareness:
1- When we’re not growing, we’re dying. Invite and welcome change knowing its impact on your vitality. Instead of getting defensive, get curious. Be grateful! When someone cares enough to give feedback, thank them and then ask, “What’s causing you to shine the spotlight on that for me right now?” “How could I approach it differently?”
2- The best leaders and athletes in the world have coaches, mentors and sometimes even a personal advisory board. Surrounding yourself with others who gift you with candid feedback help make this process a normal part of how you operate so that “truth bombs” are just a part of how you do life and business. You’ll start to expect and even crave input on how to be better.
3- When you have an organization that models a safe environment for disclosure, press into it. Recognize the cost of not engaging and being vulnerable enough to get input or another view, especially when top leaders are fully engaged in working on their strengths and weaknesses. Those are the footsteps you want to follow.
By opening yourself up to being more aware, you might be able to see the transformed reflection looking back at you.