Karen Darrin

This week I conclude my series summarizing the Harvard Business Review article, “What Self-Awareness Really Is (And How To Cultivate It)” by Tasha Eurich, PhD. HBR Article.  After multiple studies, Dr. Eurich concluded her research with three findings:

  1. There are two types of Self-Awareness:  Internal and External (Jan 23 post)
  2. Experience and Power hinder Self-Awareness
  3. Introspection doesn’t always improve Self-Awareness (Jan 16 post)

Finding #2 was not a surprise to me.  With my experience partnering with C-suite leaders, I have seen how their title and position might go to their heads and possibly create an “emperor with no clothes” environment meaning they’d make rash decisions or changes to the organization without the essential counsel of their executive teams. If I could get the leader to ask for and truly consider their team’s input, with the hopes of a more appropriate direction, I felt like I won the lottery for that week.

Eurich’s research supports my experience:

“Contrary to popular belief, studies have shown that people do not always learn from experience, that expertise does not help people root out false information, and that seeing ourselves as highly experienced can keep us from doing our homework, seeking disconfirming evidence, and questioning our assumptions.  And just as experience can lead to a false sense of confidence about our performance, it can also make us overconfident about our level of self-knowledge.

“Similarly, the more power a leader holds, the more likely they are to overestimate their skills and abilities.  Researchers have proposed two primary explanations for this phenomenon. First, by virtue of their level, senior leaders simply have fewer people above them who can provide candid feedback. Second, the more power a leader wields, the less comfortable people will be to give them constructive feedback, for fear it will hurt their careers.”

What are the applications here for those of us who strive to develop a healthy self-awareness?

  • Develop a trusted “board of directors” or “team of mentors” that will honestly tell you their point of view about your actions. Your “team of mentors” should be individuals you respect and have your best interests in mind. Additionally, the team membership should be fluid. As you progress in your career, consider the appropriate shifts to your team membership to support you through the inevitable blindspots.
  • Develop a genuine curiosity about how you are perceived.  Ask for feedback and sincerely listen to what the person has to say. Ask clarifying questions. You may end up dismissing the viewpoint or incorporating it in small adjustments to your style. The point is to create relationships with your teams that encourage open and honest communication around how to be a more effective leader.
  • Utilize 360-degree assessments on a regular basis.  Be open to the feedback that you receive and, if you are surprised by some viewpoints, do some checking with your “team of mentors” to validate (or invalidate) the perspective.

Leaders who seek honest feedback from trusted critics can reap the many rewards that increased self-knowledge delivers: increased confidence, better decisions, and more effective leadership.  There’s always more to learn about yourself and there is no better investment in your career than improving your self-awareness.

CALL TO ACTION:  Interested in having a 360-degree assessment done?  Let’s discuss how I can facilitate that process for you. Schedule a complimentary 30-min consult here:  Schedule Free Consult.

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