Consciousness: the ‘art and science’ of self-awareness in the workplace
Self-reflection and being conscious of how our actions, intentions, energy and body language impact others are an essential part of being a good leader. In practice, consciousness can be hard to achieve. But it’s not impossible! Like most ‘soft skills’, being more self-aware is a skill we can learn and develop.
Everyone suffers from a lack of consciousness at one point or another, and it’s something we all have to work on continuously. In a workplace context, we can probably think of a former or current colleague who was particularly unaware of the impact they have on everyone around them.
There’s broadly two types of self-awareness – how we see ourselves, and our understanding of how others see us.
There’s evidence increased self-awareness in the workplace can lead to better outcomes, for example this researchfrom a few years ago found it improved job-related wellbeing, improved communication and boosted confidence.
The study also found self-awareness can be improved by training – showing that there is value in working on this particular skill.
Consciousness is at the core of what we do at Leading Edge Professional Development.
We work with horses to help people be more authentic and conscious – or in other words more self-aware of their behaviour – so they can become effective and benevolent leaders and better versions of themselves.
Not an easy task
Self-reflection is not always easy, particularly when it comes to how we appear to others – sometimes we only realise when we have feedback, for example an honest friend or colleague.
That’s why I enjoy working with our horses so much, because they are great at providing that kind of feedback. They do not know whether you are the CEO or the intern, they respond to whether you make them feel safe – a telling parallel to everyday life.
Once, a team manager, David, was doing an activity with our horse, Kylie. He thought it was going well, until we took Kylie off her lead rope. And guess what – she walked away! David was initially unsure why, but then he realised he had been so focused on the task, he’d been ignoring the signs she had shown that she wasn’t feeling comfortable. In other words, he had not been conscious of his behaviour. Another great parallel to the workplace.
Some ways to improve consciousness
Here are some of my tips for how to improve your own consciousness:
- Take time to think about how you are acting. Psychologists often refer to the Self-awareness theory, developed by Duval and Wicklund in their 1972 book A theory of objective self awareness. This theory says that when we focus attention on ourselves, we are able to evaluate whether the way we are thinking, feeling and acting lives up to our standards. This also means being clear on what these standards are – for example your purpose, and your ethics and core values.
- Listen, and listen actively
- Asking for feedback is a good start, but we also have to learn how to accept honest feedback and act upon it.
- Avoid judging others and look out for what is known as unconscious bias: those little judgements we make about people based on things like appearance, age, race.
- Be yourself. While it may seem counterintuitive to be yourself but also conscious of your behaviour, I believe all good leadership has to be grounded in authenticity. The closer we are to our true selves, the more conscious of our actions we are likely to be and the more able we are to compare our behaviour to our own values.
How do you improve self-awareness? Let me know in the comments. For more information or to register for our free upcoming Wholistic Leadership webinar, shoot us an email firstname.lastname@example.org