Who are You?

‘Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves’ – Carl Jung  

Wham! Bam! Kapow@#@$!!*! That is NOT what anyone wants to hear especially if one is picturing that irritant who has poor hygiene and could possibly be in the running for ‘P.ervert of the Year’. In life, there are some who are just wrong ‘uns but on a more serious note, I am talking about aspects of people who irritate you and the question to ask yourself is ‘why’?


For me, one of those consistent irritations is when people overly fuss, are excessively pernickety & controlling and particular to the point of, well, being punchable, by me. A lady in my yoga class is just that. She’s just lucky it’s during yoga and I am mindful of my thoughts and I (attempt to) channel that zen. I have reflected on this and realize that I have the same reaction to people with whom I’ve worked who share the same traits.


So whilst holding up the mirror to myself, I have figured out that although I am very relaxed about most things, I categorically do not like being told what to do. I rarely feel the need to control others/a situation but the walls very quickly go up if others do it to me. It can cause me to react badly and have irrational thoughts (see above). I have learnt now that when I see others do so, I should let go of the fear that they are trying to dominate me (even if they are) and just erect healthy boundaries and stand up for myself. It’s OK to say, ‘No, we don’t need to check those documents for the 5th time’ or ‘While the ideas you have for our strategy are good, I think that we should consider other options too’. I also know that I enjoy working with others and collaborating, so this is definitely not about being right but about being controlled by very dominant, dogmatic and basically a.nal people. Yeah, no thanks.


So what is self-awareness?


‘These are people who are attuned to their inner signals, recognizing how their feelings affect them and their job performance. They integrate their guiding values into their work. They can deduce the best course of action. They see the big picture and they’re genuine’ – Daniel Goleman (guru of Emotional Intelligence)


This definition is within a work context but it applies to all equally, at home and at play. Above all, these are the traits that are required from all leaders.


So why is it important?


According to Goleman, self-awareness is the first of four tenets required for emotional intelligence. Without it, one can’t be truly emotionally intelligent. His research has shown the following:


85-90% of leadership success is linked to social and emotional intelligence


And the most important skill for 21st century success is learning. In this day and age of increased use of technology, even in areas that are not obviously vulnerable to it. It takes self-awareness to want to learn, as well as learning to be self-aware.


But here’s a scary statistic. The Journal of Clinical and Social Psychology says that


‘..only 10-15% of people are self-aware’


And that the higher up the ranks you go, ie leaders, the less self-aware they become!!


This is a dangerous thing for anyone. Without true self-awareness, how do you know how effective you truly are, what your strengths are, what you need to develop and your blindspots? Imagine having a leader who is not aware of these things, and is the person at your helm. Would you feel comfortable?


Being self-aware is something that everyone, especially leaders, should work on, if not for themselves, then for the sake of their business.


Blind to a Fault

I once led a leadership training event. The room was filled with ‘high potentials’ for this business. The participants were on this course for potential C-Suite status ie they were not new to leadership. What pleasantly surprised me was the number of individuals there who were not judgmental and showed a deep desire to learn from the course and from others. They were open to feedback and wanted to make the learning work for them back at work.


However what surprised me was the number of people who were very closed in their thinking, claiming self-awareness, offering pithy reasons for their lack of progress when talking about reasons for the lack of real cooperation from their teams aka they were defensive. (Side note – anectodally I would suggest that the more people say they are self-aware, the less likely I find them to be).


‘I am a perfectionist. I am doing this for the good of the project and the team by making sure that we don’t fail. If others are being idiots and derailing the project, of course I am going to have harsh words.’


Where do I start? Using perfectionism as an excuse? The selflessness of focusing on the project so the project doesn’t derail? Knowing that you are aggressive but it is apparently for ‘the greater good’?


Sure you’re aware that you have perfectionist tendencies and clearly this excuses all behaviours. But true self-awareness would suggest exploring ‘why’ the perfectionist tendencies and how it is driving your behaviours. In answering the ‘why’, one can have a more meaningful conversation and thereafter learn to be a better leader, as opposed to hiding behind the possible derailment of the project excuse.


‘Of all deceivers fear most yourself’ – Soren Kierkegaard


The Void


Today’s blog post is a mere drop in the vast ocean that is self-awareness. The thought I’d like to leave with you is, if you do not truly increase your self-awareness, how big is the void and how is this affecting your working and home life? Psychiatrist Prudy Gourguechon has the following to offer.


 “You don’t know your blind spots.”

 “You don’t know when and how your emotions are distorting your thinking.”

 “You don’t know what you know and what you don’t know, so you can’t count on yourself to seek necessary additional information.”

 “You can’t judge the effectiveness of your communications.”

 “You can’t develop as a leader because you don’t know where you need to go.”


Read more here on this subject.


Can you say with good conscience that this is the kind of unclear professional you want to be, or even more so, is this the kind of not-knowing leader that you want to be? Thought not….

‘The second you think that all your good fortune is a product of your virtue, you become highly judgmental, lacking empathy, totally without self-awareness, arrogant, stupid..’- Tucker Carlson



Karen Kwong is a highly experienced executive & business coach who has worked with start-ups and social enterprises through to large established corporates (including FTSE100 companies) across a number of industries including financial services, engineering, retail and media & communications. She also advises boards on their dynamics. Added to this, she spent almost twenty years working at a senior level in fund management. She also has a Masters in Organisational Psychology. For more please see here or contact her at: info@renoc.co.uk



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