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The benefits of knowing yourself: The importance of self-awareness for work and team success

I've been privileged to coach my son Louis’ football team for a number of years, so I've had a lot of time to observe team dynamics and what can help or hinder them.

One day my son came off the field after a losing game and started complaining that no one was passing to him. “Okay,” I thought, “I'll run with it,” despite knowing it would likely go nowhere. "Why do you think that is?" I asked.

"I don't know, Dad," he replied, "I am the best player. I've told them all that and they need to pass to me."
"And when you get the ball, what do you do?" I pursued, knowing the likely answer.
"I try to skill all the opposition and have a shot," he replied.
"Do you pass at all?"
"Why would I do that, Dad? Anyone else would lose the ball!"
"Ok. So do you think there's anything you should be doing to encourage your team to pass to you?"
"Shout at them?" came back the reply, with genuine innocence and conviction at this observation.

I had to laugh. Why on earth was I trying to encourage self-awareness in a 10-year-old? Why did I think he'd understand the impact of his personality on the team? The most self-aware he was going to get is knowing he was hungry.

However, this story does illustrate the importance of self-awareness and the potential impact on teams if you don't have it. Louis just couldn’t see that his own lack of passing was directly related to his team’s hesitation to pass to him.

I recently had the opportunity to delve further into the subject of self-awareness when I ran a self-awareness session for Intergen’s national Ignite programme for developing leaders in our organisation.

It was a fantastic chance to help other Intergenites to see themselves better and to discuss the positives (and negatives) of self-awareness. I concluded that we have lots of people that really understand who they are and how this impacts others

So, what is self-awareness? It's the extent to which you know yourself; how well you know your strengths and weaknesses, your beliefs, what stresses you, your personality traits, what you like and dislike. But it's also the extent to which these behaviours impact on the people around you, at work and at home.

Why is it important to have self-awareness? By knowing yourself you can utilise your strengths to help others around you, and to understand the things you will excel at. By knowing where you struggle you have the opportunity to prevent these areas from damaging you or affecting people around you. Together these can be used to strengthen your relationships with the teams you work in and to demonstrate leadership.

In modern working environments our ability to work effectively within, and to lead, teams is a vital ingredient to our personal success and that of the organisations we work in. Having self-awareness is at the root of both of these skills. Knowing how we are, how we impact others and being sensitive to their needs, wants and attitudes are core attributes of modern leadership.

How do you develop self-awareness? By being open. You need to be open with yourself. But, more importantly, you need to be open with others. This means sharing information about yourself and welcoming feedback from others. These last two are particularly important as they lead to greater levels of trust between you and the teams you work in.

And, so, with my new understanding of the value of self-awareness I now need to figure out how to put it in terms that Louis can contemplate and action so he can benefit in his football team and his future school and work life. Given he’s since turned into a teenager it seems like I might need to attend a session on “achieving the impossible” first.

Posted by: Ian Cowan, Practice Manager, Enterprise Solutions | 09 June 2016

Tags: Project Management, Induction, Management, Talent Management

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