Self-Awareness at Work

Article contributed by Valerie Harlow, EANE

Have you found yourself struggling to connect or relate to someone? Are you apprehensive working with some people because your style just doesn’t jive with theirs?  Often as we go through our day, we are not aware of our impact on others or why we don’t connect well with certain styles/people.  There are a few techniques that can help us build self-awareness: uncovering blind spots and understanding our style priorities.

Blind spots are those things we don’t know about ourselves, but others know about us.  A technique to help uncover blind spots and help us to be more self-aware is: Start, Stop, Continue.

Start, Stop, Continue is a set of 3 simple questions we can ask ourselves: – What should I start doing, What should I stop doing, What should I continue to do?  As you become more thoughtful and introspective, you can branch out and begin posing the questions to a trusted peer, co-worker, manager or direct report.  

Asking what I should start doing helps uncover things we aren’t doing that we should be doing or we may be at a point in our development where we are ready to take on a new expectation/task.  Asking what I should stop doing highlights the things that are not helping us to advance our goals or objectives and we should not be doing anymore.  Asking what I should continue to do helps us recognize the good things we are doing that are helpful and getting the work done.  These are things we should celebrate and continue to do!

Knowing more about the priorities and preferences of our work style helps us to be more effective. It helps us to understand what we need, but also how we interact with others.  This information, in turn, can help us to be clearer about needs, requirements, and expectations and help us to build better relationships at work.

How do we do this? It involves some introspection and self-reflection and begins with us asking ourselves questions like: What’s my perfect working environment, Where do I naturally focus- on tasks, getting things done, driving to results or on relationships like being part of a team, collaborating, bouncing ideas off others etc.?  Do I need 100% accuracy, proof, facts, data? Can I forge ahead if I only have most of the information?  Do I prefer to operate at a high level or do I need to drill down to process, details, etc.?  Do I like working by myself most of the time or do I prefer to be with others?

When we know more about our preferences and priorities, we can use that information to help us better understand our impact on others.  Tools and assessments, like DiSC or EQ (Emotional Intelligence Quotient) help us to identify our style, how to gauge styles of others and ultimately how our style impacts others.  When we have this awareness, we can understand and recognize those situations when we need to turn up our style or turn down something in our style to be more effective in communicating and working with others. 

By spending some time in self-reflection and focusing inward then outward, we can gain insights that will help us to be more effective in how we work with others.  This leads to greater self-awareness which can help us to develop and gain traction towards our aspirations.