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The best analogy really is it’s a lotlike being a parent. Your baby ortoddler absorbs everything you do,looks to you for guidance and teststhe heck out of you. That’s exactlywhat employees do.Which is all to say, as the leader,who you are has an effect onothers.So if you want your employees,children or even your environmentto reflect the best of you, you needto become self-aware.
What is self-awareness? Daniel Goleman, author of the books Emotional Intelligence and Social Intelligence, defines self- awareness as the ability to identify, express and manage your emotions. Which seems easy enough, except it isn’t. I’ll give you an example from my own life.Mudtown.com by Brenden Clawson and Greg Bigoni
I took first place in my kindergartenclassroom spelling bee and won a papermache Popeye.I was over the moon with excitement.My foster mother took this picture andright after warned me ,“Don’t get too big for your britches.”
This is how I felt.
What I learned in that moment was it was not okay to have feelings. Statements like these You’re So Emotional were subtle messages that dishonored or ignored my feelings. Many children grow up learning the same Shake it off lessons. That it’s not okay to feel or it’s only okay to feel certain things, like only women can be sad or only men can be angry. My Popeye experience linked for me that achievement was okay but it definitely Be a good girl wasn’t okay to feel anything about it. And so like many an over-achiever beforeBig girls don’t cry me,
I pushed down my feelings andwent out and achieved a lot.Little did I know that while we’retrained to tamp down ouremotions, it’s an illusion, becauseemotions don’t go away unlessaddressed.
In fact, it wasn’t until I became anentrepreneur, that I learned I wasangry.This, according to Carole Robin, alecturer at the Stanford GraduateSchool of Business in organizationalbehavior, is not unusual.She teaches future business leadersin a class called InterpersonalDynamics, and many have the sameproblem.When asked how they feel, mostrespond, “I don’t know.”
That’s because our ability to be intouch with and express our feelings isslowly socialized out of us.Carole gives the example of a toddlerwho bumps his head: the motherrushes to him and says, “You’re okay.You’re okay.”We’re told to be okay even ifwe’re not.Then we enter school and we’re toldto be rational and not emotional.Later in the workplace, we’re trainedto put on armor.So over time, our ability to evenaccess emotion gets thwarted; in herwords, “our emotional musclesatrophy.”
For me, the stress of entrepreneurshipbegan to expose the weaknesses in myemotional foundation.I was having a ton of feelings but because Ihad learned to suppress them they beganto leak out.They affected my ability to communicatecleanly, my ability to pay attention to mygut, and even how I viewed situations.They affected my ability to lead.If you’re not aware of your emotions youcan’t manage them and when you don’tmanage your emotions they manifestthemselves in all manner of unintendedresults.
So I got a CEO coach and the first thingshe taught me was to respect myfeelings.It was okay to be angry. Turns outanger is wise.I learned that all my feelings are validand when you start there, you can relaxenough to dig into why you’re feelingwhat you’re feeling and then choosehow you’re going to express and manageyour emotions.The process is self-awareness. How doyou become more self-aware? You needto first learn 3 key skills.
First, learn to listen to your body.Often your body will be communicatingsomething you haven’t let your consciousnessknow about.Check your throat, stomach, and back. Whatdo you feel in these areas when somethinggoes right? What about when somethinggoes wrong?When you talk about a particular subject doyour shoulders scrunch up around your ears?These are physical signs pointing you to howyou’re really experiencing something.
Second, get in touch with your feelings.Not sure how you feel? Start by regularly askingyourself – how do I feel? You can use an iPhoneapp to remind you.Even if you can’t answer the question clearly,the very act of asking is an act of mindfulness.Asking will start to bring emotions to theforefront of your consciousness where it will beeasier to identify them and then deal with them.
Third, check your thoughts. Thoughts and feelings can be easily mixed I feel up. How do you tell the difference?that you If you can substitute "I am" for "I feel", you have expressed a feeling. If you can substitute "I think" for "I feel", you have are not expressed a thought or a judgment. paying Said another way, when "feel" is followed by "that," "like," or "as" you are most likelyattention expressing an opinion or thought, not feelings. to me. For example, saying "I feel that you are not paying attention" is an observation, not a feeling.
Once you’ve identified a thought, it’simportant to question it.Is it true? Is it helping?Doing this will help you to detachyourself a bit from your thoughts andrecognize that thoughts come and go.You’ll have the space to get to knowyour thoughts and explore whatthey’re about.
Learning and practicing self-awarenesscan help you lead not only a company,but also a life.Knowing who you are helps you to betterunderstand what you want and knowingwhat you want makes it far more likelyyou’ll get it.You only have to get out of your ownway.