Five Steps to Grow Self-Awareness and Your Career
I was in a gym while on vacation last week along with a few other early morning workout warriors. A man came in during the last 10 minutes of my workout, adjusted his headphones and started a rigorous treadmill workout.
Right away, the treadmill this guy was on started making a loud, shrill noise that everyone in the gym noticed — everyone but the man on the treadmill. One-by-one, people started cutting their workouts short and leaving. Oblivious to the racket, the guy kept running, his music drowning out the annoying sound.
As I was leaving, I stopped at his treadmill to let him know the noise his machine was making was disturbing to others in the room. He took off his headphones to listen to me and acknowledged the noise. Then, as I left the gym, he put his headphones back on and resumed his noisy workout.
So much for feedback.
Feedback comes to us in many forms. Years ago, I had the opportunity to work with an executive coach. During the coaching process, I took several self-assessments and had a 360 review. As a result, I received some of the most comprehensive feedback I had ever been given. This feedback helped me see myself as others saw me, which helped me become more self-aware. Like the man on the treadmill, I got some feedback that I didn’t want to hear. Unlike him, I chose not to ignore it, realizing I needed to have an action plan if I wanted to move forward in my career.
Now, as an executive coach, I often use assessments, stakeholder interviews and 360’s to help my clients become more self-aware and to identify the strengths they want to keep or amplify, along with the gap areas they want to develop — especially any behaviors that can be viewed as career limiting or derailing.
On my career journey, I’ve noticed that people who work at developing their self-awareness often advance their careers more successfully than those who don’t. I’ve found the following five steps to be useful for those seeking to become more self-aware and to grow their careers:
- Be Open to Feedback. A key takeaway from any endeavor is learning what works and what doesn’t. When you receive feedback about actions that are working, be thankful and keep going. When you get feedback for improvement, be thankful and make adjustments to improve your outcome. Being defensive or obstinate hinders growth. Being thankful, expressing gratitude for the feedback, works in every situation.
- Use Assessments to Gain Perspective. More organizations are using assessments for applicant selection, for facilitating career progression at higher levels, and in their coaching programs. Assessments provide information to better understand strengths and gaps. They also can help us see ourselves as others see us. Embrace any opportunity you are given to take assessments. Take note of the strength and gap areas that align with other feedback you’ve received, then construct a plan with your manager or coach to amplify your strengths and develop your gaps.
- Recruit Key Stakeholders. Mentors, coaches, sponsors, managers, peers and selected others can be invaluable stakeholders in providing input and perspective to job performance and career growth. Seek out key stakeholders in multiple areas and ask for their honest feedback and perspective about what you are doing well and where you could improve. Listen and seek to understand. Follow-up with stakeholders to re-cap some of the feedback you’ve received, then share your action plans for development. Doing so can turn your stakeholders into your biggest supporters — they see that you are listening and are earnest about improving and growing.
- Strive for Improvement. Improvement is not a linear path. The saying, “two steps forward, one step back,” resonates as we go through any process of change for the better. We will slip backwards at times. Armed with greater understanding of our strengths and gaps, however, we often can lessen the negative effect of backsliding and maintain positive momentum.
- Repeat as You Change Positions. In today’s workplace, it is common to change positions and organizations as careers progress. New levels or organizations come with different leadership expectations and/or cultures, respectively. Navigating these differences requires a need for more feedback and most likely a refreshed set of stakeholders. Recently, I worked with a client who had been offered a job in a new industry. As part of his acceptance, he requested an executive coach to help him on-board into the new corporate culture. This proved very successful for both my client and the organization as it helped him come up to speed on the expectations of a new organization and culture much more quickly than he otherwise would have.
The bottom line is that we all have the choice to act on the feedback we are given — or, like the guy on the noisy treadmill, to stick the headphones back on and continue running without getting anywhere.
How can executive coaching help you use feedback, grow self-awareness and advance your career?
Lance Hazzard, CPCC, ACC, is a certified Intelligent Leadership Executive Coach helping people and organizations successfully achieve what’s next. He is Executive Coach and President at Oppnå® Executive & Achievement Coaching. Lance and Eric T. Hicks, Ph.D., co-authored the book, Accelerating Leadership, published in June 2019. More information can be found on the book, Lance and Oppnå® Coaching at the links below: