5 ways to grow your organisation’s self-awareness

This article looks at some of the ways that HR and L&D professionals can help people in their organisations build self-awareness.

Self-awareness means having an understanding of ourselves – our personalities, strengths, weaknesses, feelings, motivations and beliefs. People who are self-aware have insight into the impact that they have on others. This makes them more adaptable. They can play to their strengths and understand when they need help to compensate for their weaknesses.

It’s a great starting point for understanding others, for creating different and more productive ways of building relationships. Raising the levels of self-awareness within a team generally means that people work better together and can navigate conflict more effectively, leading to better outcomes.

Here are five approaches that will help you build your organisation's self-awareness:

1) Develop people's feedback skills

Feedback is one of the most obvious – and effective – ways of building self-awareness. In general, more feedback means more self-awareness. So perhaps Human Resources and Learning & Development teams should just leave it to line managers to give feedback, and sit back and watch while the organisation steadily develops its self-awareness?

The problem with this approach is that giving feedback is a skill – like most skills – that needs to be developed. Feedback needs to be clear and specific. It also needs to be delivered with an understanding of how it might be received. Too much feedback, too quickly can lead to the recipient shutting down completely and trying to avoid it in the future. Better to give a little feedback and see whether the recipient heard it, then keep the door open to be able to give more feedback later. This isn’t necessarily obvious, and there are complex emotions involved when it comes to giving and receiving feedback, so people frequently get it wrong – or avoid it. They need help to understand the psychology of giving, receiving and asking for feedback. So, it may not be your job to give feedback, or put the feedback system in place, but who else can ensure that people across the organisation have the skills they need to give, receive and ask for feedback?

Making sure that people have the right skills is the starting point for creating a feedback culture, where people feel comfortable opening up to ask for feedback and are competent when it comes to volunteering it. And of course, improving people’s feedback skills can kick start a positive spiral with more feedback leading to greater self-awareness, leading to higher quality feedback and so on.

2) Use psychometrics

Another really productive way to increase self-awareness is through use of psychometric questionnaires. These measure the degree to which someone possesses particular psychological attributes compared to a wider population (for instance warmth or dominance). There are many different psychometrics available. Some of these are more or less household names – like Myers Briggs (MBTI). Some have to be administered by highly qualified practitioners (e.g. NEO) while others can be used by non-experts (e.g. DISC and Insights). Some have better psychometric properties than others, and they measure different constructs. However, used well, many of these instruments can lead to a step change in self-awareness.

A well-run training session where people share and discuss their own profiles with their colleagues will not only deepen self-awareness but will also start to create a shared language. Of course, it’s important to ensure that the facilitators are competent to run the session – it’s critical that everyone understands that this sharing process is about inclusion and respecting differences rather than setting up a ‘them and us’ mentality.

If you’re seeking to build self-awareness in your organisation, you’ll probably want to ensure that your people get a chance to explore their own profiles on at least one psychometric questionnaire – and hopefully on several. Psychometric assessments can cover many things: personality, values, strengths, motivation, skills and abilities. Each one offers a different lens into the self. The revelations are less dramatic with each new instrument you use, but the subtleties and nuances of comparing profiles across different instruments (and over time) will continue to deepen people’s self-awareness.

3) Encourage sharing

Another way to increase self-awareness is to encourage people to share what they know about themselves with others, particularly the aspects of them that are not at all obvious. Naturally, this also means listening to what others say about themselves. Discussing the parts that are normally ‘hidden’ helps people move away from some of the casual – and often erroneous – assumptions that they typically make about how other people experience life. Over time, the process of mutual sharing helps people build up an informed view of where they personally fit on the map of ‘what people are like’.

You can help deepen self-awareness in your organisation by looking for opportunities to weave ‘sharing’ into training and discussion groups. Many people are quite reserved, though, and won’t disclose much about themselves unless they feel it’s safe to do so. Make sure you and your facilitators know how to create a psychologically ‘safe’ space for people to open up in, for instance by introducing clear ground rules at the start of any ‘sharing’ exercise, and ensuring that participants maintain control of their own boundaries – not feeling pressured into disclosing more than they wish to.

Of course, sharing is most useful within a team or group of people who need to work together often. It’s a way of deepening relationships and building trust. A self-aware team is better at ensuring that people are productive and engaged, playing to their strengths and mitigating weaknesses. The organisation can make teams more self-aware by equipping more people – especially line managers – with the skills to create the kind of inclusive and respectful environment that allows people to open up.

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4) Build their coaching skills

Working with a coach is a great way to develop self-awareness. The coach helps you to explore your inner world, your interactions with others and also understand how a shift in behaviour may have a different impact in a given situation.

HR and L&D professionals are sometimes asked to find someone a suitable external coach. These might be senior people or those who are going through a transition. At other times, they may be involved in commissioning, developing or delivering internal coaching programmes or supporting particular individuals to get deep training in coaching skills. Becoming a coach doesn’t mean giving up the day job. Far from it. Building and deepening coaching skills is a great way to develop self-awareness, to really learn how to impact differently. A ‘line manager-coach’ remarked to us recently how at least 50% of her learning to become a coach was learning about herself and how to manage herself differently. This she could usefully take into her role as a manager and, importantly, use with other colleagues in the business.

You may be able to champion a coaching approach more broadly by ensuring that more people are trained in key coaching skills – such as listening to create rapport, showing empathy to put people at their ease and using open, solution-focused questions to guide others to reach their own conclusions. All of these skills raise people’s emotional intelligence, and – whether directly or indirectly – build self-awareness.

5) Review your formal processes

If you’re serious about building self-awareness across the organisation then you’ll probably want to take a systemic look at how self-awareness is built into your formal processes. Is it included in the competency frameworks that underpin your talent development efforts? If it is, then what is the follow through like?

How does your formal performance review and development process support the development of self-awareness? If your organisation using formal feedback processes such as 360 reviews, what is really being measured and what is the quality of the resultant feedback? Do managers across the organisation have the skills and tools that they need to have the conversations that will make the difference?

By thinking through questions like these, and especially by thinking carefully about people’s skills, you can collaborate with other colleagues who are interested in talent development to take a systemic approach – continually harnessing the power of self-awareness to raise the effectiveness of both individuals and teams.

About Aptimore

Aptimore is a personalised online learning platform that develops a comprehensive range of emotional intelligence, collaboration, management and leadership skills – including self-awareness. It harnesses many of the approaches described in this article. Aptimore can be used flexibly, as a tool for independent learning, blended training, group learning or peer mentoring.

Jump to our home page here to take a look around or get in touch with us to arrange an online demo.



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