Developing Self Awareness on a budget

An article in the Harvard Business Review by Erich C Dierdorff and Robert S Rubin looks at the impact of self awareness in teams. They define self awareness as “understanding who we are and how we are similar to or different from others.” We all know that this understanding is critical to the way people work in teams and so over the years companies have spent vast amounts of money to facilitate their employees understanding of themselves.  However, the authors say that the most popular types of training, which use developmental assessments such as the MBTI, DiSC, The Birkman Method, and The Core Values Index, have their limitations.  In order to make self knowledge useful, it has to be translated “via an external appraisal – how other people see us - or against objective data.”

This, they say is essential for “transforming self-knowledge beyond mere personal introspection into accurate self-awareness.”

So how can we make this happen? More importantly, how can we make this happen on a budget?

The answer, according to Dierdorff and Rubin is to encourage self reflection by all means but do so in a way that checks against some external evaluation.

1. Make it OK to ask for feedback.  If you do use self-awareness tools, use ones that linked to actual learning or job performance. In “Five Ways to become more self-aware” Anthony Tjan suggests a simple set of questions to encourage employees to ask for feedback on the following:

  • What am I trying to achieve?
  • What am I doing that is working?
  • What am I doing that is slowing me down?
  • What can I do to change?

2. Provide a model for providing feedback once employees have considered these questions. Create a line-of-sight between self-awareness and personal job success. Research shows that when individuals see learning as valuable to their careers, they’re more motivated to learn and apply new skills to their roles. Communicate why the capabilities on which individuals are receiving feedback are actually relevant. Don’t assume that individuals already recognize the need for accurate self-awareness: substantial research shows that those most in need of improvement are the most unaware.

3. Provide opportunities to practise. Teach self-development skills in addition to self-awareness. Acquiring accurate self-awareness is only the beginning – true personal development builds the capacity to take action. Tjan makes the point that many talent development efforts fall short of teaching self-development skills, leaving behind a “knowing-doing gap.”

And if you need some help in supporting your managers develop their skills, contact us,  it won’t cost the earth.

Margaret Cheng

Senior Consultant

Margaret Martin Associates Ltd

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