Karen Darrin

Harvard Business Review recently published“What Self-Awareness Really Is (And How To Cultivate It)” HBR Article.  Based on multiple research studies, the author, Tasha Eurich, PhD, unearthed the following conclusions:

  1. There Are Two Types of Self-Awareness:  Internal and External
  2. Experience and Power Hinder Self-Awareness (Jan 30 post)
  3. Introspection Doesn’t Always Improve Self-Awareness (see my Jan 16 post)

With conclusion #1, Eurich’s research defined internal self-awareness as how clearly we see our values, passions, aspirations, fit with our environment, reactions (including thoughts, feelings, behaviors, strengths, and weaknesses), and impact on others. Her research concluded that internal self-awareness is associated with higher job and relationship satisfaction, personal and social control, and happiness; it is negatively related to anxiety, stress, and depression. No surprises, really.

The second category, external self-awareness, means understanding how other people view us, in terms of those same factors listed above. Eurich’s research showed that people who knew how others see them are more skilled at showing empathy and taking others’ perspectives. For leaders who see themselves as their employees do, their employees tend to have a better relationship with them, feel more satisfied with them, and see them as more effective. Again, nothing new.

When I read this, I assumed that being high on one type of awareness would mean being high on the other. But here was the surprise with Eurich’s findings: she found virtually no relationship between them.

Her team identified four leadership archetypes, each with a different set of opportunities to improve:

KEY: Leaders must actively work on both seeing themselves clearly and getting feedback to understand how others see them.

Consider middle manager, Diane. She loves to share her viewpoints and feels very confident in what she has to say. Unfortunately, 80% of what she has to say is not helpful to the business. She believes she is a great manager and her team appreciates her insights. In reality, they wish she would listen more and talk less, incorporating her team’s input more often. Diane is a Seeker – low on both internal and external self-awareness.

The bottom line is that self-awareness isn’t one truth. It’s a balance of two distinct, even competing, viewpoints. (If you’re interested in learning where you stand in each category, Eurich offers a free shortened version of their multi-rater self-awareness assessment here.)

Next week, I will discuss conclusion #2, Experience and Power Hinder Self-Awareness.

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