How self-aware are you really?

I’m asking because self-awareness is foundational to career success and frankly to success in all of life.

When you're more self-aware, you can better manage yourself in the moment to lead and influence others, to get better results and better opportunities.

When it comes to your career, there are three aspects of self-awareness that are particularly important.

1. Self-Awareness of your triggers and your reactions to them

The first is being aware of your own triggers. These are the people and events around you that allow you be at your best rather than your worst.

For example, in my career I loved getting feedback. I thrived on feedback, but I didn't always get it. At times in my career I found myself in a no-feedback culture and being in that environment often led me to have negative thoughts and self-talk that hurt my performance.

Another past trigger for me was the daily morning team meeting we used to have back in my corporate days. It was a chance for those of us who covered clients to update the rest of the department and I thought of it as a giant “chest-pounding” exercise.

This meeting would trigger me to really shrink back and become quiet because I didn't like promoting myself and talking about my activities with my clients in front of all my peers. Unfortunately, this behavior wasn’t helpful to my career.

So, be aware of these types of triggers and your instinctive reactions to them.

2. Self-Awareness of how you’re landing with others

The second aspect is to be aware of how you might be triggering other people to be at their best or their worst.

For example, maybe you're the kind of person who walks down the hall and doesn't say “hello” because you’re deep in thought or because you want to respect the other person's privacy as they may be deep in thought.

Well this situation might trigger the other person to think, “She's not very friendly” or “She didn’t say ‘hello,’ she doesn't even remember my name.”

Another case might be if you have a micromanaging boss and you’re not the kind of person who volunteers updates. As a recovering micromanager, I can tell you that getting no updates or feedback really freaks us out because it feels like we have no idea whether you're even working on the assignment. This type of perception of you from your micromanaging boss is not helpful to your career either.

So, be aware of how you're landing with others.

3. Self-Awareness of how your routine behavior impacts your future opportunities

The third aspect to be aware of is how the things that you habitually do, the things that are routine that you don't even think about anymore, might be affecting your future opportunities.

For example, I was always a great note taker. I got compliments on note taking. I enjoyed note taking. But then roll the clock forward 5-7 years and I was a pretty senior professional, sitting in meetings and playing the “note taker” role.

It got to the point where my big boss had to come to me and say, “May, would you stop taking notes. You come across like an administrative assistant rather than somebody who's a future managing director.” Now, that was a real wake-up call for me about my own career-limiting behavior.

As another example, you might be hanging around with the same circle of colleagues and friends as you always have. You have fun, it's comfortable, maybe you help each other and it's great. But you know what?

That’s the circle you need to expand if you're going to put yourself in front of bigger, better opportunities. Otherwise you'll be more likely to keep being perceived as that same former, junior person.

Be aware of your habitual actions that might have implications for the future.

Self-Awareness is the first step to any kind of change

When you want to continue to progress and get to the next level of your career, whatever that might be and however you might define it, then what got you here won't get you there.

Self-awareness will enable you to make the kind of changes necessary to grow as a person and in your career.

When you’re conscious of the decisions you're making, then you have a better chance of putting yourself in a great position career-wise. And that's good for you, it's good for your team, it's good for the organization, good for your family and – of course – great for your career.

Now, I’d love to hear from you.

Which aspect of self-awareness would make the biggest difference for you in your career if you tapped into it right now? What difference would it make for you to be more self-aware?

Leave me a comment and let me know.