Why Self Awareness is Important and How to Improve Self Awareness in the Workplace?

January 4th, 2021 | By Madhu
Importance of Self Awareness | Improve Self Awareness in Workplace - Madhu Kanna

Two quotes that will always stay with me are:

“Naan Yaar” in Tamil which translates to “Who Am I” – Ramana Maharshi
“When I discover who I am, I’ll be free.” – Ralph Ellison

Our being is shaped by a lot of factors namely needs, wants, values, beliefs, environment, etc. The famous psychoanalyst Carl Jung also adds the collective unconscious to this, which makes it even more interesting. As we progress in life, in the quest to satisfy our basic psychological needs, we are on a mode, it could be centered towards something that we aspire to or lack or we are operating on an autopilot mode, we do not necessarily take time to reflect and see who we are, what are we inclined to, what drives our decisions, biases, emotions and the impact we create on others, we just run. However, once the basic needs are met, as you evolve in your personnel life or move up the career in your professional life, you feel a lacuna, lack of fulfillment, or non-alignment. This is the first signal that you need to more self-aware.

What is Self-awareness?

Self-awareness is the ability to see oneself objectively and honestly, without any filters. It is being aware of what is happening inside you and how they impact things happening outside you.

Let me explain this to you with a real-time example. In one of my assignments as an executive coach, I had this very senior leader, who politely declined his promotion (more power and benefits), I was curious to understand what made him do that. He mentioned that the new role would require him to step into the operations side of the business, which he was not inclined to. He was aware that he was an expert in his current domain because he was passionate about it and the moment, he stepped out of it he would not enjoy his work. In addition to this, he also said that his current role let him play golf thrice a week, which he most enjoyed and cherished. He did not want to disturb the harmony he had. This was self-awareness at play.

Also read: Are you feeling stuck? Is Mid Career Crisis Knocking at you?Are you feeling stuck? Is Mid Career Crisis Knocking at you? Click To Tweet

6 Reasons Why Self Awareness is Important?

There are 6 reasons, according to me, that makes self-awareness very important:

1. Identify your natural preference: We all are inclined towards certain things, this could be certain ways of doing things or behaving in a particular manner, understanding this will help you understand your strength, likely watchouts, and most importantly the unintended consequence of your actions and behaviour.

2. Manage Emotions: Understand and identify what emotions you are going through, how this emotion is impacting you and the people around you.

“If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand if you don’t have self-awareness if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.” – Daniel Goleman.If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand if you don’t have self-awareness if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you… Click To Tweet

3. Collaborate better: You are more open to working with others who bring in different strengths. You know that you can create bigger and better things when you acknowledge what you are good at and where you should seek help or a partner. You begin to accept that you are not a superhero. Even Sherlock Holmes needed Dr. Watson, isn’t it?

4. Bring Alignment: When you see your values, aspirations, passions, and how they fit with what you are doing currently, you adjust yourself, bring in alignment, and more importantly, feel less stressed. This alignment could also mean harmony amongst various important aspects of your life.

5. Better Decision Making: You are no more making decisions on assumptions or limiting yourself in going ahead and taking the big step, you are well informed and act on your knowledge.

6. Be Courageous: Through self-awareness, you will examine and acknowledge your vulnerabilities without judging them.

“There is no courage without Vulnerability” – Brene BrownThere is no courage without Vulnerability Click To Tweet

Also read: 6 Factors that could come in your way of delegating work effectively

How Self-Aware Are You?

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2 Proven ways to Improve Your Self Awareness in the Workplace

Self-awareness is not a destination, but a journey. Taking time to reflect is the first step. The invitation is to embark on this journey and keep working on yourself. Below are two simple things you can do on your own to improve your self-awareness in the workplace.

1. Ask “What” instead of “Why”:

A simple way to be more self-aware is to take time and reflect on what just happened, what made you do this, and how it is affecting you. Do not ask “why”, as it would be you judging or reasoning your actions.

In one of my Leadership coaching engagements, I was coaching a mid-level manager, who is usually soft-spoken, friendly, and empathetic. The challenge he faced was – he lost his cool when his subordinates came up with a last-minute hitch in the project, especially closer to deadlines, he shouted at them at the top of his voice, this left people humiliated, the team was demotivated. I invited him to ask the below questions and journal the answers

“What was he getting when he shouted”
“What is the actual emotion in play”
“What was happening within him”
“What was another way in which he could have responded”
“What feeling would the subordinated undergo”

The answer that he got was: His anger triggered by the fear of losing his reputation and image of being an achiever, which he had built over years, in front of his superiors. With the awareness from the executive coaching sessions, he also understood that his fear was not helping him be a good leader to his subordinates, especially when they needed him the most. He started working on fear and how to better manage his emotions.

2. Solicit Feedback:

Do create a mechanism for soliciting feedback about your actions and behaviours. Be open for people to objectively critique you. This is most effective when done anonymously. Analyze the feedback and make course corrections. This will help you to get a view of how people experience you.

Well now as you have two things to work on. Start your journey now!

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” – Carl JungEverything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves. Click To Tweet


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Madhu Kanna - Certified Executive Coach | Leadership coach

Madhu Kanna

I am a Certified Executive Coach and I work with leaders to help them play at their full potential!!

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