Tuesday Tip: Building Self-Awareness

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The problem is not what she does it’s how she does it!” (Sigh) an annoyed colleague reflected to another as she complained about their new manager, Grace. Regretfully, Grace was within earshot and stood frozen as she tried to make sense of what she just heard.”

This comment and comments like this are what I hear almost weekly. It refers to someone’s general lack of awareness in knowing how they come across to others, either in their body language or communication or attitudes. Very often it can be the differentiator in a critical situation, job selection or even job survival. 

Self-awareness is, in many ways, the baseline or foundation of emotional intelligence. It’s the ground spring from which our actions and behaviours stem. How we act or communicate is so ‘normal’ to us that we don’t consider it at all. We operate unconsciously and pay little regard to how our individual styles may differ from another’s and in doing so may be the cause of potential conflict, or perhaps the reason we are in a conflictual situation in the first place. 

It’s the “why can’t everyone be normal… ‘just like me’ ” mindset, where we expect others to think, act and communicate ‘just like me’. But they don’t. And here’s why – we are all wired differently, we all have core personality drives that motivate our behaviour according to several factors that all began in our early childhood. Congruent with developmental psychology, the thinking on personality is that it develops most significantly between the formative years of 0-7, with the ages 0-2 years being critical for attachment and how we build relationships. This means, that depending on what was going on in your world, your community, your family, and your relationships during those early years has fundamentally moulded your personality and the person you are today. It laid down the blueprint of how you understand the world and operate within it. 

Knowing your personality at an in-depth level is essential to building emotional intelligence as self-awareness leads to self-regulation which allows for better emphatic regard, increased social skills and finally- better relationship management #LeadershipPotential. 

How do I build my self-awareness?


Getting you know yourself isn’t always easy, or comfortable. There are parts of ourselves we proud of and there are development areas, sometimes these are known and other times we completely unaware we have them. A helpful way to start building your self-awareness is to 1. Spend time unpacking some reflective questions 2. Solicit 360-degree feedback from others and 3. Explore your personality through a personality framework that will help you to leverage the strengths of your personality. 


Self-Reflection: 8 questions to ask yourself as you start this journey:

  1. What am I good at and how do I know I am good at it?
  2. What is it that I ‘bring to the table’ eg. Enthusiasm, organization, diplomacy etc, and does this differ between my work life and my home life?
  3. What energizes me?
  4. What or who frustrates me the most and why?
  5. How do I react when I’m frustrated?
  6. In what 3 ways to I upset/ frustrate others?
  7. Am I able to accurately articulate my feelings in response to situations or events, when they happen?
  8. If I could change 2 things about myself what would they be and why?


HINT: if you answered none/nothing to any of the above you have failed. Start again. 

Engagement: Gain a 360 degree perspective

Consider the different areas of your life across both work and personal spaces, the customers you serve, family, friends, people you lead, colleagues, your manager, groups you a part of. Select one person who knows you well in each area, and asks them to answer questions 1-6 of the reflection questions above. Ask them to be honest, telling you that you flawless is probably nice to hear, but not helpful. 

Theory: Use a framework

There are several different personality profiling tools or strength and weakness tools one can use online. The Enneagram is a particularly helpful framework in understanding personality across 9 different profiles and can be used individually and done with teams. The framework allows you to understand the values that drive your behaviour, your communication style, your trigger points and how these culminate into a leadership style that is different to other leadership styles of those you come into contact with. The Enneagram is incredibly helpful in helping teams think through how can we be different ‘for’ one another rather than ‘from’ one another. 

“Grace decided that some work needed to be done. She reorganized her desk, sharpened her pencils then went down to her favourite store – the stationary shop. Grace bought a new journal, titled it ‘Self-development’ and immediately wrote down the 8 self-reflective questions.


She emailed HR and asked them to contact TomorrowToday to inquire more about the Enneagram team building workshop for her new team who clearly were not as embracing of her as she thought. 

She then took a deep breath and called up her old colleague from her former job, her mother, and her fiancé and asked if they would be willing to answer some of the questions as well to help her see the blind spots in her own behaviour and thinking…phew, here we go! She thought with a degree of apprehension.”

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