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The importance of self-reflection and self-awareness in the workplace 

As I have been re-reading “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable” by Patrick Lencioni, well listening to the audio book, it has had me thinking about self-awareness. The book is tale about reasons that teams fail to function effectively and how we can work to correct course.  Self-awareness is not one of the reasons listed, but I have been thinking about the impact self-awareness can have on a an individual and therefore their team. 

Self-awareness can be demonstrated in many forms. From being intentional about how we show up to a meeting – hat or no hat, tie or no tie – or being intentional in how we respond, immediately, after we have thought through it, or after we have cooled off. The answer may vary depending on the situation at hand. Ultimately, to improve our self-awareness, we must reflect on ourselves. Though it can be difficult to look inward on ourselves, through this reflection, we can begin to understand our strengths and weaknesses. Looking back on when something has gone well for us and asking, “What did I do that contributed to the positive outcome?”, or when something has not gone very well, asking “How could I have approached this differently?”. Taking this information and applying it in the future will allow us to be intentional in how we approach situations. 

Inner reflection alone, will not fully allow us to become more self-aware though. I intentionally said “more” and not just “become self-aware” as this is a lifelong endeavor.  We must also rely on feedback from others to better understand how our emotions, actions, and reactions affect others. That means we must learn to be open to feedback. Listen to the feedback with an open mind, repressing the urge to be defensive, and thank others for the feedback. What we do with that feedback is up to us individually, but put to good use, it can help us on our journey to becoming more self-aware.  

Personally, I recognize that I can often be very direct and not necessarily the most emotionally connected person. This shapes me in how I approach communications, and interactions with others. This applies not only in the work environment, but in my home life as well.  Understanding that others may communicate in a different manner and may receive my direct communication as rude or intimidating, has taught me to pause before I speak. I often may wait to send an email that I just typed allowing me to be intentional in thinking about what I am about to say by reading the draft later and thinking about how the recipient may interpret the message.  I and we don’t always get it right, and that is okay. It will just provide us with more information to reflect on, and work on a different approach next time. 

Mark Craig
Executive Director, Enterprise Applications