I bet you’re incredibly familiar with the styles and quirks of each of your teammates. You know what they do that drives you nuts. You know when they go one step to far. But you’re probably much less aware of your own foibles. One of the most critical things you can do to contribute to a healthy, happy, and productive team is to become more self-aware.
I’m frequently shocked by people’s lack of self-awareness. It’s my job to hold up a mirror so people can see themselves as their teammates see them. They are often surprised, by their own reflection.
Even in the last couple of months, I’ve seen some doozies. I’ve seen people yelling without any clue that they’ve lost their cool. I’ve seen people rolling their eyes at their boss who are then surprised when I ask them to explain their reaction (Who? Me? Why are you asking me?).
I’m constantly finding people who think they are contributing when they are actually silent. Those people are only slightly less common than the people who think they are making a balanced contribution while actually taking up 25% of the air time in a meeting of 10 people.
All of which leads me to ask “how self-aware are you?”
Try answering this set of questions for yourself, then share them with a trusted teammate to see how well your answers jibe.
Participation: Let’s start with this basic question. When you are together with one or more teammates, what percentage of the time are you the one speaking? If the number isn’t pretty darn close to your fair share, be aware of how you will be perceived. If you’re under-contributing, you might be seen as less valuable, engaged, or knowledgeable. If you’re over-contributing, you might be seen as domineering, egotistical, or verbose.
Directness: Any given point can be communicated in a variety of ways. Are you in touch with how directly you deliver a message? Do you tend toward the blunt end of the spectrum causing people to recoil as you unleash the unvarnished truth? Or do you ever so carefully sugarcoat the issue and obscure it so no one receives the message you were trying to deliver.
Accountability: Do you get defensive when someone directs a concern or criticism toward you? Do you fail to notice your heart starting to race and your voice starting to get loud as you deflect comments as if they were attacks? Or do you take each and every comment to heart and become overwhelmed feeling that you must take responsibility for everything?
Detail: Here’s another common spot for low self-awareness. Do you come up with ideas that are so abstract that no one can pin your ideas down? Are you the strategic thinker who draws big ideas on the white board but gets mocked for grandiose ideas that will never work. Or are you the person who’s so far into the detail that you’ve lost everyone’s interest and attention?
In the weeds———————————————————————In the clouds
Risk taking: Different people have very different appetites for risk. If you aren’t aware of yours, you will let your gut make all your decisions without letting your brain get in on the action. You might be a real risk taker with a propensity to charge into anything new just for the thrill of it. Or maybe you’re the risk averse one who shoots down any idea that requires something different from the status quo.
Play it safe———————————————————————Shake it up
Here’s the challenge: if you aren’t a very self-aware person, your ratings on these dimensions are probably completely different from what your teammates would say. Don’t take your own word for it. Ask for some feedback on these and other dimensions. You might be surprised what you learn.
Being self-aware doesn’t mean that you have to change. Once you clue in to how you show up, you might be totally comfortable with your approach. But I bet there will be a few spots where you want to course correct.