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7 Signs You're Not as Self-Aware as You Think

Self-awareness is a really big deal for everyone, especially executives and business leaders. Failure to face reality can destroy your career and your company.
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Being in the advice giving game isn't all it's cracked up to be. It's not like you get to sit on a mountaintop and just rain down pearls of wisdom on your clients. When it comes to executives and business leaders, it's almost never that black and white.

Granted, there are times when people are genuinely open to the voice of experience and perhaps a little objectivity. Then there's the opposite extreme: deep denial. Where they don't want to hear the truth no matter what you say or how you say it.

And in between those black and white peaks is a vast plane of gray, where people sort of know, deep down, what they need to do but something's stopping them from doing it. That something is almost always beneath the surface, meaning it isn't easy to get to and folks will often confound, thwart, or downright resist the effort.

The truth is there are lots of paths people take to avoid confronting whatever it is they don't want to confront. And those paths can lead to career demise or business destruction. No kidding. 

Here are seven signs you may be heading down the latter path.

You're a bully. If you didn't have emotions, you wouldn't be human. Feelings are important guidance mechanisms. Anger and aggression are no different. They're signs that you feel threatened or scared. You go on the offensive and bully to protect something deep within you, something you don't want people to see, often feelings of weakness and vulnerability. Ironic, isn't it?

You're defensive. When chief executives resist a consultant or executive coach who wants to meet with their staff or outside directors one-on-one, when genuine and objective feedback makes them agitated or even angry, that's a sure sign. I'm not even sure why they call it "defensive, since defensive people almost always deflect by going on the offensive.

You're controlling. When you behave in a controlling way--when you micromanage, pick on the little things--it usually means you're not dealing with a big thing that's really bugging you. It means you're not paying attention to something really important. Left unchecked, that can definitely take you down a dark path.

You're passive aggressive. When you say, "Sure, no problem," then turn around and do the exact opposite, it means you don't want to confront others or be confronted by them. It's a deflection, an attempt to throw them off the scent so you don't have to deal with something that affects you deeply. Again, it's usually something you're not consciously aware of, something that makes you feel vulnerable or embarrassed.

Your behavior changes. When your behavior changes to the point where it's noticeable to others who know or work with you, that's definitely a sign that you're really bothered by something and not aware of how it's affecting your mood. If someone brings it to your attention and you're defensive, that's an even bigger sign.

You're grandiose. When we make over-the-top overtures to how confident we are in our ideas, our plans, our business, when our strategies defy objective reasoning or our goals don't pass the smell test, that's a sign we're genuinely in over our heads and are overcompensating to appear like we've got everything under control. I've seen and worked with quite a few CEOs in grandiose mode. If they don't come to terms with it, it never ends well.

You make excuses. Excuses, any kind of excuses, are ways of avoiding or deflecting negative attention. Pointing fingers and blaming others are common avoidance techniques that communicate our resistance to being held accountable. That's why playing the blame game is such a transparent sign of dysfunctional leadership or management. And yet, we see it all-too-often, don't we?

 

Last updated: Mar 29, 2013

STEVE TOBAK | Columnist

Steve Tobak is a management consultant, an executive coach, and a former senior executive of the technology industry. He's managing partner of Invisor Consulting, a Silicon Valley-based strategy consulting firm. Contact Tobak; follow him on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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