Wouldn't you like to simply become a better leader? How about if you could become more innovative or creative? What if you could 3x, 5x or 10x your productivity?

What if you could be one of the handful of Facebook engineers who not only get hired but thrive at the most competitive company on the planet? How about being a leader who makes good decisions at twice the rate of your peers?

The best and brightest get to the top because they're incredibly talented, smart and driven. However, they also have something in common...they know themselves. And they make it a point to study who they are--how they think, how they behave and how they solve problems.

When you make it a point to know yourself you learn two very important things about being a leader: 1) where your strengths lie, and 2) where you can improve. The real key to better performance starts with a deeper perspective of oneself, since any improvement that needs to happen at an organizational level, must be driven by individuals.

Most of us have a general sense of the stuff we're really good at and the things that are frustrating or challenging. But, that's only surface level self-awareness. And it is also subject to our own predilections of who we are and what defines our value in a work sense. Self-awareness needs to get more in-depth and more to the point.

In this article on Medium, Tom Stocky, a VP at Facebook, talks about getting down and dirty with his engineers to really develop self-awareness.

"An easy exercise for this is to create a list of the skills you deem most important for your role, your life, whatever you care about. Then assess yourself on each of those skills. Which are you great at, which are you terrible at, which are you somewhere in the middle?" Stocky writes.

Another way to look at your self more critically is to actually get scientific about it. Using an assessment that measures key elements of your work style, communication preferences or more deeper attributes related to cognitive and behavioral preferences.

For example, the way our company drives self-awareness is by measuring and highlighting four distinct ways that every person thinks and three behavioral tendencies. From this information, a leader could look at a list of skills she needs and integrate that with how she actually thinks. Now you have something to build from--a deeper understanding of who you are and a prioritized list of things you need to do to be successful.

But that only goes so far, as the other key way that self-awareness actually matters is by placing any knowledge you gain against what others think of you. The problem is that at work we tend to be wildly inaccurate in the way we perceive ourselves versus the way others see us. (Note: Any assessment worth its salt will have strong validation that ensures that an answer you give will be backed up by others' observations of you. So those tools should still be one piece of the pie).

According to the top thinkers at Harvard Business Review, this bias toward our own perceptions is strong...and has real consequences. A study conducted of over 350,000 leaders found only a .29 correlation between subjects self-evaluations and objective assessments. If you're not a statistical whiz, let me break that down...it means that it doesn't even come close to a correlation.

Furthermore, the researchers found that the difference between those teams who had members with high self-awareness were more than 2x better in their decision making, almost 3x better in their coordination, and almost double in their performance related to conflict management.

This has real ramifications, and the smartest people in the world are doing it. If you realize that self-awareness is a key way to overcome your own challenges, it can be the difference between good and great.

Published on: Jan 26, 2016
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