Management & Leadership

Can coaching help you develop self-awareness?

Dec 20, 2017
Developing Self Awareness

Understanding the rational and irrational nature of humans (including your own) is part and parcel of being able to work – and lead – more effectively.

Key takeaways

  • A trait of emotional intelligence, self-awareness is key to understanding ourselves and how we relate to others.
  • Understanding the rational and irrational nature of humans (including your own) is essential to being able to work more effectively.
  • Strategies employed by professional coaches can help you cultivate a sense of self-awareness.

A common comment given in feedback to people being considered for promotion at work is: “He or she is excellent technically but lacks self-awareness”.

And about troubled relationships, it is often remarked that a couple seems unable to identify the part each plays in the upsets they experience due to the lack of awareness each has of her or his contribution to what occurs.

Self-awareness involves being aware of different aspects of the self, including traits, behaviours, and feelings. It plays a critical role in how we understand ourselves and how we relate to others and the world, be it personally or professionally. But can self-awareness be cultivated? Business coaches believe it can. Here’s how…

The psychology of self-awareness

It’s not for nothing that psychologist Daniel Goleman, in his bestselling Emotional Intelligence, identified self-awareness as one of the key areas for greater emotional intelligence.

The psychological study of self-awareness can be first traced back to 1972 when psychologists Shelley Duval and Robert Wicklund proposed that “when we focus our attention on ourselves, we evaluate and compare our current behaviour to our internal standards and values. We become self-conscious as objective evaluators of ourselves.”

Goleman, on the other hand, proposed a more popular definition of self-awareness as “knowing one’s internal states, preferences, resources and intuitions”. This definition places more emphasis on the ability to monitor our inner world, our thoughts and emotions as they arise.

Ultimately, it is important to recognise that self-awareness is not only about what we notice about ourselves but also how we notice and monitor our inner world.

The importance of self-awareness in the workplace

The simple fact is that people don’t check their emotions at the door when they come to work. Understanding the rational and irrational nature of humans (including your own) is part and parcel of being able to work – and lead – more effectively.

Self-aware employees and leaders are mostly confident and open-minded. They embrace new thoughts and ideas, which helps their co-workers, clients, and even bosses like them better. Employees with self-awareness tend to accept others’ shortcomings and are willing to be involved in projects that can help them develop themselves. They realise that this development will improve their skills and grow their career. As the result, a company will benefit from these employees as leaders within its ranks are produced in this way and they do not have to recruit from the outside, which would otherwise expend time, money and effort.

Coaching strategies for improving your self-awareness

Becoming more self-aware in the workplace allows you to relate better to your colleagues, direct reports and superiors, creating a more harmonious environment. You are able to look at issues more objectively and the role you may have played in creating them. You are mindful and operate in the here and now.

But how can you become more self-aware at work when there are so many things vying for your time? Business coaches recommend these five tips:

  1. Take a personality test: Personality tests give you insights into who you really are and help you to better understand why you behave the way you do. They also provide guidance for changes that you can make to better yourself at work.
  2. Ask for informal feedback: One of the simplest techniques in coaching is reflection – simply repeating back to the client, in their exact words or very similar, what they have just said to you. In the same way, insights from your colleagues help you gauge how others see you. Also solicit feedback from family and friends for the same reasons.
  3. Journal: Writing a daily diary will help you keep track of your thoughts, feelings and experiences.
  4. Meditate: Mindfulness-based meditation will improve your awareness at a specific moment in time. It is a way to monitor your thoughts and feelings.
  5. Reflect: At the end of each day, take time to consider how the day went. Reflecting allows you to course correct if you need to.

Becoming a more self-aware person helps you to become a better leader, even if you are only leading yourself.

Interested in learning more about coaching, and the techniques used by professional coaches to help people harness their true potential? You may wish to study coaching at SACAP. Programmes such as the Postgraduate Diploma in Coaching and the Coach Practitioner Program will equip you with both theory and practical skills needed to pursue a career in coaching. For more information, enquire now.

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