In a previous post, we shared some ideas on Self-Awareness as a Leadership Tool for Designers, as one of our most valuable tips for leaders – and for designers who wish to be.Empathy is the ability to recognize, understand, and appreciate the way others feel, and is at the heart of all effective work relationships. And yet, empathy requires self-awareness as the foundation of your ability to grasp what others are feeling, even when vastly different from your own emotional reaction. If you truly hope to be seen as open and approachable by others (including associates, suppliers, and clients), improving your level of self-awareness is the first step to being the best leader you can be.7 Steps to Improve Self-AwarenessTo avoid potential negative consequences of overly high self-regard, use empathy and an appropriate level of assertiveness to avoid appearing overconfident, and develop a greater degree of self-awareness:
- Always look at yourself objectively – By showing your willingness and ability to understand and accept your strengths and weaknesses you will be perceived by others as confident. People may frequently gravitate toward you, look to you for advice, and seek your leadership.
Because you are able to demonstrate your strengths with confidence, you are sure to be given opportunities to excel that will maximize your talents; however, it is also important to seek out opportunities that stretch your less developed skills as well.
- Keep a journal in which you write down your goals, plans, and priorities – Take the time to write down some of the things you do in your job that help to motivate you. No matter how small, everything should make the list. Review this list once a week; Monday is usually a good day. Remind yourself that even the small things (like having a client compliment you on your presentation or a small job) can push you to do your very best.
Record your reaction to any mistakes or errors you make over the next few weeks. If you find yourself blaming “the system” or the ubiquitous “them” for your mistakes, you might want to start openly admitting your areas of weaknesses. Rather than placing blame, use mistakes as learning opportunities; the chance to show that you know and accept areas that need improvement, and put in place strategies that manage them, rather than pretending they don’t exist.
- Perform daily self-reflection – Known as self-actualization, we can define this practice in three words: pursuit of meaning. While this sounds a bit too philosophical for some, in the world of business it means finding purpose and enjoyment in your job and performing to your fullest potential. Doing this will go a long way toward keeping you passionate about your work, as well as your life outside of work, and you will feel a real sense of pride in setting and achieving challenging goals.
While it’s normal to think that you can accomplish more, by spending time with self-reflection you will begin to realize just how much you: value ongoing training and keeping your expertise sharp; enjoy acting with a plan in mind; believe that you are leading a rich and fulfilling life; at times, you turn on “autopilot” mode, going through the motions of your job without truly striving to excel – and will resolve to do this less often.
- Practice meditation and other mindfulness habits – Doing this will lead to greater emotional self-awareness. If you are able to develop a solid understanding of what causes your emotions, it is much easier to regulate your behavior and control the impact your emotions have on those you work with.
One of the implications of recognizing your emotions, and what triggers them, is that for you, experiencing an emotion is the result of a cause-and-effect relationship. You will know when and why an emotion will be triggered and you will begin to know how to use that emotion to your benefit. You will soon find yourself in tune with the physiological sensations of emotion though, from time to time, there may be some emotions that continue to slip by unrecognized. For that, the next step will help you greatly.
- Take personality and psychometric tests – By working with an expert, you will learn to effectively express emotions using words and physical expressions to convey your feelings in a way that is not hurtful to others. This will enable you to be recognized by others as someone who is emotionally expressive, bringing your true feelings to the surface with relative ease.
By being able to more freely share your emotions with others, you will build stronger relationships with your colleagues and friends – and achieve your goals – business and personal.
- Ask trusted friends to describe you – Relationships are an essential part of life and you are likely heavily invested in making your relationships work. One implication of this emotional investment is that you may sometimes hide your emotions or shy away from making decisions that could potentially cause conflict.
By asking your most trusted friends to describe you in their own words, you will be better able to determine if you, or your personal relationships, are suffering as a result of withholding your true thoughts and feelings from those you care about.
- Ask for feedback from people you respect – This is a critical step toward taking a more active role in establishing and maintaining your professional relationships at work – and fulfilling your leadership role. Your goal should be to be seen as a “connector”, aware of who does what, who knows what, and who needs to know what. Maintaining confidences, team harmony, and open communication should be a top priority for you in your job as a designer, and as a team leader.
As you continue to build professional relationships – with associates, suppliers, prospects, and clients – it’s important to know the boundaries of these interactions. Failure to recognize when you begin to occupy more and more of your colleague’s time may result in less time allocated to projects, at which point your social interactions may prove costly to your performance.Empathy & Self-Awareness as Leadership ToolsAre you as self-aware as you can be? Are you an empathetic person who appreciates the emotional needs of those around you? Are you the leader you’ve always hoped to be?If your answer to any of these questions is “No”, or even “Maybe not”, use these tips for leaders to enhance and improve your level of self-awareness and become the person, leader, and designer you want to be.Looking for more interior designer marketing tips, new design trends, and design product ideas? Get in touch with TD Fall today.