No One Knows You Better

This month at 822 Group we are turning our focus from the subject of empathy to that of self-awareness. This is the next puzzle piece to building high EQ companies – not to mention that it’s entirely necessary to make the whole empathy thing work in the first place.

I am very passionate about this idea of self-awareness. For starters it is one of my values, but for someone who tends to be bit hard on herself, it’s also the bar against which I constantly measure myself. In fact, my worse nightmare is for someone to become aware of something about me, even the slightest nuance or habit, that I am not myself aware of (and actively working on, btw).  For me personally, I’ve had to wrestle this from the extreme to a manageable place that doesn’t create paralysis by analysis. So, I am here to say that nothing – not even self-awareness – in the extreme is helpful.

That said, I believe that for organizations to collaborate better and become more effective, self-awareness is critical – and it’s also way underrated, under discussed and undervalued.

Let’s start at the top – the company as a whole. If you had to think of three big brands and personify them – how would you describe their personalities? Are those traits reflective of who the brand wants to be? Is it authentic to them?This is where self-awareness starts. A brand is a personification – and companies have to start the process of self-awareness with a carefully cultivated brand identity. The brands that have a distinct identity make that identity a natural extension of everything they do. Think about a few…Tom’s, Apple, Away, Southwest, Nike, Microsoft. Looking at these brands, there’s a strong sense of self: this is who we are, this is what we do, this is what we believe in.

But self-awareness isn’t just about clarity on your identity as a brand, it’s also about understanding your challenges. This is where self-awareness and leadership intersect. How many of you work for a leader who displays total self-awareness? Who can say openly when faced with their challenges – ‘this is a weakness for me’? Unfortunately, not enough of you are saying yes to this question. The trouble is that without total self-awareness, a leader cannot command total respect and trust. There may be some respect or trust, but the people around them are always managing around their issues, negative traits or characteristics - things that the leader is not willing to look at in themselves. This creates frustration for employees, not only is this NOT their job – to manage someone else’s shortcomings – but without self-awareness there is little hope of improvement or change. In fact, how can an employee trust that a leader will be honest with them if they can’t be honest with themselves? This dynamic creates, at best, unease, and at worst a trust-deficit. The bottom line: Leaders own your S*!t so others don’t have to!

This effect trickles down. With an unaware leader – what is the workforce being encouraged to do? Be honest about their own strengths and weaknesses? Plan and hire around those challenges to ensure they are effective and productive? NOPE. This lack of self-awareness spreads, like a fog, building cultures of blame, people that are not accountable and issues that go unmanaged until they become full blown crises.  This can all be avoided.

The good news is, its never too late. Cultivating self-awareness takes some work, sometimes it takes an outside facilitator, but it can be accomplished. Once you achieve it you begin to display it – and those around you can’t help but try to meet you there. It’s a lovely thing to watch happen, but for it to happen, the conversations about self-awareness must start ASAP.  I hope some of you will get this dialogue going inside your own organizations. I would love to hear where they lead you.

Mory FontanezComment