In our search for more human and agile ways of working how is the importance of self-awareness significant?

We’ve discovered three essential components are present within highly effective teams, namely:

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Other awareness
  3. Complexity awareness

So, what do each of these entail?

Today, we invite you to explore the first component: self-awareness and why it’s so vital in forming more human workplace cultures. We’ll elaborate on the other two components in subsequent blogs.

What is self-awareness?

At its simplest self-awareness is how well we know ourselves. It’s our ability to accurately observe our thoughts, feelings, and actions.

Self-awareness requires us to reflect and in doing so, we begin to understand the causes of our emotional reactions and triggers. Over time, becoming self-aware equips us with the ability to regulate in moments of challenge and stress.

Life challenges us

Let’s face it, irrespective of our position, we all find ourselves challenged by our work, and life, at times. This can come in the form of customers or colleagues, responsibilities and tasks, or even by our attempts to manage time.

Being challenged is built into the fabric of our lives and it’s perfectly designed. How we deal with those challenges, and adversity, is the way we grow and evolve. Ultimately, our response to challenge determines who we become.

How is this so?

Every challenging situation impacts our emotions. Our emotions control how we think and feel. How we think and feel define our behaviour and how we show up.

Our inner world dramatically influences the quality of our work, relationships and the way we view our external environment. We have a choice; to react to situations unconsciously or choose to respond with awareness. Having a choice, however, is conditional on our level of self-awareness. Without it, we resign ourselves to the unconscious and habitual  nature of our reactions.

Self-awareness is the key to becoming our best selves

Becoming self-aware is a journey to remembering who we are at our best. When we take time to notice what makes us tick, we’re more able to take responsibility for our emotions and stop ourselves projecting the source of our problems outwardly.

As our self-awareness deepens, we begin to understand that much of who we are, and how we see the world, is formed through the accumulation of past emotional reactions. We learn that our past experiences create impressions that leave an imprint on our subconscious. It’s these imprints that cause us discomfort, in the form of negative emotions when challenges arise and pressure is applied. This is how we’re triggered into reacting to situations and people around us.

It isn’t until we can observe ourselves objectively and detach from our reactions, that we create the opportunity to choose our response. We become emotionally intelligent once we’ve developed our ability to self-regulate. From here we begin to realise that real change occurs from within and that doing this inner work is the path to broader organisational and social change.

Bringing our whole selves to work

We work with so many beautiful people who tell us they endeavour to leave their ‘true self’ at home so that they can present their ‘work self’ in the office. Their inclination is to become someone else, a character, to fit in and to protect themselves from their environment.

As coaches, we’ve come to learn that we can’t separate ourselves without causing ourselves some level of harm. And why would we want to? We are whole human beings with so much to contribute. At best, when we separate ourselves, we suppress our emotions to get on with what’s expected of us. At worst, we forget who we are.

Society has conditioned us to believe that the work mask requires us to be rational, masculine, and always in our heads. We cut ourselves off from our emotions, our feelings, our bodies, the feminine and our souls. We forget the importance of connection and compassion, and over time, we come to feel the emptiness of that separation in our work. Yes, we are beings built to think but we are also built to feel. Doing our best work requires us to connect with ourselves and each other at a deeper level.

With self-awareness comes self-direction…

It’s self-awareness that enables us to integrate all of who we are with what we do. Knowing what we value, what motivates us and how we’re able to contribute, builds inner confidence, resilience, and creativity. These are all qualities that lead us to greater self-direction. This is a journey to understand who we are at a deep level, so that we can choose how we want to show up in our work and wider lives. It’s the foundation to creating more human and self-managed ways of organising.

What prevents us from greater self-awareness?

When working with teams we rarely encounter people who lack the competency required to do their jobs. People are either learning, in a training phase of their development, or are already competent members of a team.

So, if people are deemed competent, what’s the main cause of interference that prevents teams and organisations performing at their best?

We’ve found that it’s the Individual and collective emotions of the group.

It’s our emotions that drive our behaviours. Over time we form unconscious beliefs and perceptions about our environment and the people around us. These beliefs and perceptions can be positive, and work to serve us, or they can be negative and cause interference, impacting our culture and the way we work.

The root of the problem is these beliefs and perceptions form outside of our awareness. They are unconscious until we pause to look within and become aware of the source of our emotional reactions and outbursts.

The evolution of teams

What science tells us, is that any behaviour we exhibit in a modern context is underpinned by our primal instincts.

Our number one priority is survival.

We evolved in tribes, as social animals, because coming together in groups meant we had a better chance of surviving. Therefore, the integrity of a group was tied to our very existence. It became important for our ancestors to know who in their tribe disliked who, who was honest and who was a cheat. New language skills developed for tribe members to share stories that connected them and for the purpose of gossip. And as humans we still love to gossip!

This enabled the human species to expand into bigger groups and develop more sophisticated forms of communication.

Here’s the interesting thing – our modern-day places of work have become the equivalent of those found on the ancient savannah. Our biology and need to connect haven’t changed but our environments have. To evolve with the new age, we must recognise and understand why we’re still inclined to behave in primitive ways. Importantly, we need to appreciate how to override our primitive instincts. This is what self-awareness does for individuals and team dynamics.

Lead from within

When the teams we work with take the time to develop their self-awareness we see positive shifts in their wellbeing, productivity and the collective decision making of the group. Teams begin to recognise that for organisations to be successful, everyone must lead, irrespective of role or title. These are foundational pieces toward creating a more self-led culture.

Nurturing self-awareness within our organisations enhances our emotional intelligence and leads to greater compassion and empathy, for ourselves and each other. The consequence of encouraging more heart felt connection lifts performance through improved communication, connection and collaboration.

If you’d like to develop your emotional intelligence, we’d love to show you how! We work with people and teams to develop self- awareness, so that together you connect more deeply, are more effective and more fulfilled by your work.

Please get in touch to discover more.

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