Free Assessment: How does your sales & marketing measure up?

Get Started

Free Assessment:

How does your sales & marketing measure up?
Take this free, 5-minute assessment and learn what you can start doing today to boost traffic, leads, and sales.
Get Started
Executives and Leaders

Leadership development: Why we need to develop awareness in ourselves and others

Chris Duprey

By Chris Duprey

May 11, 2020

Leadership development: Why we need to develop awareness in ourselves and others

At IMPACT, we consider  awareness (specifically, self-awareness) to be the most important attribute in each of our employees, as we've found it is the #1 indicator of who will, ultimately, make a successful hire for our team — from our managers and organizational leaders, to our specialists and implementers.

But what does awareness as a leader and as an individual contributor really look like? And are we as self-aware as we think we are? That's what this piece seeks to explore, with a goal of challenging us to answer those questions truthfully for ourselves.

Awareness — specifically, self-awareness — is something that almost everyone claims they have. The tricky part, however, is that people who lack awareness have no idea that they lack it, because of how unaware they actually are. 

So, how do you know how aware or not aware you are?

Think of all those times you’ve been driving in your car to work and the only thing you are aware of is that you got to work. You don’t remember how the drive went, whether you saw anything beautiful or interesting, or even were conscious of making any turns.

You simply remember getting into your car and then — poof! — you arrived at work.

Guess what? This is not what being aware is like.

"But, Chris, is that level of awareness really necessary to be a better leader, contributor, and teammate?"

Yes, as we must first acknowledge how much we go through our lives on autopilot, not present, and unaware of what is happening around us. We slip into those modes so easily, and we must challenge ourselves to recognize how many other times we do this.

At home and at the office.

So, as we think about awareness and how most people lack a high-level of awareness — even with the best of intentions — the obvious question becomes how do we train people (and ourselves) to become more aware?

🔎 Related: The ultimate guide to inbound leadership

More specifically, how do we fully develop and hone this skill of self-awareness like any other skill we teach people in school or in job training?

Before we focus on how we teach and train on self-awareness, however, we need to understand what is getting in the way of people being as aware as they think, as well as how we overcome that.

When I think of awareness, I think of it as a multifaceted thing.

On one level, there is self-awareness — knowing how we see ourselves (internal awareness) and knowing how others see us (external awareness). The knowing here is beyond how we want to see ourselves and be seen, it is actually how we see ourselves… or self-awareness.

On another level is others-awareness, which is something I don’t think gets talked about at all, and it very much should be. This is where we know how to read a room and to understand those around us (internal), and how our presence impacts those around us (external).

When we look at these two concepts independently, and how one (self-awareness) leads into the other, it's clear as day why awareness needs to be a cornerstone of any leadership training

Why is it so hard then?

Reality is difficult.

It is something that our own minds try to keep us from seeing on a daily, hourly, and moment by moment interplay. Think about that — our own body is trying to keep us from seeing reality as it is, because our mind's #1 goal is to protect us from what might hurt us. 

Especially reality. 

Our brains, like us, developed over time through evolution, and the winners in evolution are those that pass their DNA to the next generation. This is why our fight or flight responses are so strong. This is why we may see a snake on a path in woods when it is really just a stick.

🔎 Related: Why is self-awareness the #1 thing we look for in a hire?

A lack of awareness is our minds' way of ensuring we get our genes into the next generation.

I remind us of this because our minds do this to us even in situations that aren’t life and death — like when we get in our cars and commute to work. They play into our desires and cravings for pleasant experiences. Our mind doesn’t want us to know that we’re going to die, that nothing will last, that everything is in a constant state of change…

So, when people believe they’re aware, most of the time, they aren't. Instead, they are in a blissfully ignorant state, where the mind is shielding them from what is real — how we impact others, how others perceive us and our actions, and so on — so we can feel good.

“You’re doing great! Everyone loves you… the way you handled that situation was spot on. How could Jim have done that, he was so off-base? None of what happened had anything to do with you…”

This is your brain making up a beautiful narrative that will help you feel like you’re doing great as a leader, as an individual contributor, as a teammate, as a manager, and as an employee.

Here's the thing, though. It's all crap, or at least some of it is.

How do we create awareness for ourselves and encourage it within others?

In order to improve our own awareness as leaders and/or contributors — and train others (leaders in waiting, new managers, seasoned organizational visionaries) — we need to break through the traps and the shackles our minds have built for us. 

We have to be able to disengage from the story we tell ourselves — the fictions our minds try to trick us into believing, for better or for worse — and understand what actually happened.

In that conversation with a teammate. 

In that one-on-one with a direct report.

In that all-hands meeting, where a big announcement was met with luke warm reception.

We do this by challenging ourselves whenever possible to answer the following four questions as openly and as honestly as possible.

  1. What’s the story I’m telling right now?

  2. What’s true?

  3. What’s possible?

  4. Could I have been wrong?

Then, when our direct reports come to us with their own fears, worries, concerns, or assumptions, we go out of our way to train this way of questioning ourselves as a reflex within them. We challenge them to acknowledge their own stories, what is actually true, what is possible, and where they could have been wrong. 

Only then can we achieve the awareness within ourselves and our organizations that will help us achieve our most audacious and aggressive growth goals.

Free Assessment:

How does your sales & marketing measure up?
Take this free, 5-minute assessment and learn what you can start doing today to boost traffic, leads, and sales.

Related Articles

Why Trust Is the True Currency for All Business

August 9, 2023
Marcus Sheridan Marcus Sheridan

The Benefits of Hiring a Business Coach (Especially for Reluctant Leaders)

August 2, 2023
Zach Basner Zach Basner

How To Become a Better Business Coach

July 31, 2023
Allison Riggs Allison Riggs

Why Hiring a Coach is the Surest Way to Spur Business Growth

June 28, 2023
Bob Ruffolo Bob Ruffolo

Set the Tone As a Business Coach: Trust and Accountability, Not Friendship

June 14, 2023
John Becker John Becker

I Just Hired a Content Manager: How Can I Tell They're Doing The Right Things?

May 18, 2023
John Becker John Becker

Staffing Up After a Recession: Who to Hire When

May 17, 2023
Bob Ruffolo Bob Ruffolo

Looking for Better Applicants? Focus on Candidate Education

May 15, 2023
John Becker John Becker

CEOs: Your Sales Reps are Damaging Your Brand With Lazy Prospecting Emails

May 11, 2023
Bob Ruffolo Bob Ruffolo

Word-of-Mouth is Fragile; Here's How to Build Market Durability

May 10, 2023
Marcus Sheridan Marcus Sheridan

What You Need to Learn From Customers Who Didn’t Buy From You

May 3, 2023
Will Schultz Will Schultz

Your Meeting Superpower: Replacing Good Questions with Great Questions

April 26, 2023
Chris Marr Chris Marr

Top 10 Must-Have Qualities To Look For in a Content Manager

April 20, 2023
Marcus Sheridan Marcus Sheridan

What Small Business Leaders Need To Know to Thrive During a Recession

April 19, 2023
Marcus Sheridan Marcus Sheridan

5 Keys to Marketing Your Business During a Recession

April 17, 2023
Chris Duprey Chris Duprey

Why You Need a Content Manager (and How to Hire the Right One)

April 13, 2023
Marcus Sheridan Marcus Sheridan

Leadership Teams Are Often Blind to Their Own Dysfunction — And The Effects Can Be Devastating

March 8, 2023
Chris Duprey Chris Duprey

Sure, They Ask, You Answer Works in Other Industries — But Will It Work in Mine?

February 23, 2023
John Becker John Becker

In-house Marketing vs Agency: What’s Best For Your Business?

February 2, 2023
Chris Duprey Chris Duprey

Insourcing vs. Outsourcing Content: Which is Better for Your Business?

January 9, 2023
Tom DiScipio Tom DiScipio

Sales vs Marketing in 2023: What’s The Difference?

January 5, 2023
Marcus Sheridan Marcus Sheridan

Outsourcing Is Broken: Rethinking the Relationship Between Client and Agency

December 14, 2022
Marcus Sheridan Marcus Sheridan

What Is a Revenue Team?

December 5, 2022
Chris Duprey Chris Duprey

Want to Grow Your Business? Start by Growing Your People

November 30, 2022
Chris Marr Chris Marr

Building the Perfect Sales and Marketing Team in 2023

November 27, 2022
Marcus Sheridan Marcus Sheridan