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Self-Awareness: A crucial factor that’s often overlooked at work

Self-Awareness: A crucial factor that’s often overlooked at work
1st May 2021

When hiring for our organizations, we tend to give more weightage to competencies like interpersonal skills, aptitude, flexibility, team handling skills, quick-learning, etc. What we tend to miss out is that one core quality that forms the very basis for almost all other skills that we desire in our employees, which is self-awareness.

What is self- awareness?

Self-awareness is an individual’s perception of him/herself and how accurately it reflects the perceptions others have about him/her. Psychologist Daniel Goleman defined self-awareness as “knowing one’s internal states, preference, resources, and intuitions”.

As per Wikipedia, self-awareness is an experience of one's own personality or individuality. Self-awareness is about consciously knowing and understanding your own character, feelings, motives, desires, etc.

It’s about the ability to know and understand yourself, objectively & honestly. Self-awareness is being aware of your experiences, abilities, hidden strengths, areas of improvement, your expertise and your blind spots, your habits (both good and bad).

"Self-awareness is the ability to focus on yourself and how your actions, thoughts or emotions do or don't align with your internal standards. If you're highly self-aware, you can objectively evaluate yourself, manage your emotions, align your behavior with your values, and understand correctly how others perceive you".
- HubSpot

Value of self-awareness

A study by Harvard Business Review, suggested that when we see ourselves clearly, we are more confident and more creative. We make better decisions, build stronger relationships, & communicate more effectively. We’re also more-effective leaders.

Though self-awareness is a key ingredient for elevated employee performance, greater manager effectiveness, growth & development, etc. it often does not come up as a vital factor defining one’s performance and engagement.

As per another HBR study, although 95% of people think they’re self-aware, only 10 to 15% actually are – now that’s an eye opening stat!

Benefits of self-awareness

Let’s quickly take a look at a few benefits of working with a self-aware team.

  • More resilient teams - Employees who are self-aware are better at managing and dealing with stress. There’re likely to be more receptive to constructive criticism and to learn from it. Self-aware employees do not resist change, rather they adapt and thrive. Adaptability is crucial for today’s day and age, and self-awareness provides just that.
  • Continuous learning – Understanding where you lack, what could be the possible performance gaps and blind spots, helps employees pick the right self-improvement and development plans, fostering learning and growth.
  • More confident & competent teams – Employees who are self-aware are better placed to handle responsibilities and roles as they better understand their strengths, skill-sets and talent. This makes them more confident at what they do. Employees are in a better position to play to their strengths. Employees with higher self-awareness make better decisions, interact better with each other & leaders, and manage conflicts more effectively.
  • Greater Employee Engagement – A team that’s confident with its skills, ready to grow and learn, agile and flexible to change is definitely way more engaged. Self-awareness raises employee engagement and happiness levels by aligning the ideals of employees with actions.

"According to the Harvard Business Review, un-self-aware colleagues aren't just frustrating; they can cut a team's chances of success; other consequences of working with unaware colleagues include increased stress, decreased motivation, and a greter likelihood of leaving one's job."

Making your teams more self-aware

Now that we know how important self-awareness is, let’s look at how to cultivate self-awareness among our employees. While it’s “self’ awareness, as mentors, managers can help their teams cultivate and nurture self-awareness. Here are a few practices to help build self-aware teams:

  • 1. Make them aware about self-awareness
    Encourage your employees to identify and take note of their behavior and emotions at work. It can be just a quick point on their interactions, way of doing things, etc. This will help them recognize patterns in their behavior and dominant traits, both good or otherwise.
    Many organizations run personality assessments to help their employees self-assess themselves objectively. Such self-assessments help individuals assess their emotional quotient and how it impacts their performance at work. Help your employees ask themselves “What?” instead of “Why?” behind their situations and experiences.
  • 2. Learning the art of mindfulness
    Encourage your employees to cultivate mindfulness. Mindfulness allows an individual to be present with themselves and observe their thoughts. Mindfulness forces you to focus on yourself without any pre-conceived notions.
    It’s like checking-in with yourselves – your thoughts, your feelings. Providing employees with credible tools or resources on mindfulness like mindfulness apps, hosting sessions, etc. is another great way to boost self-awareness training.

"Self-aware teams are more resilient, self-confident and more adaptive. A study by Bass & Yammarino, Atwater & Yammarino, and Church showed that people with more accurate self conception tended to perform better."

  • 3. Help them become better listeners
    Inculcate listening skills among your employees. When people listen (not hear) to others - their friends, peers, or managers they become more aware about them and how they are perceived by them. Similarly, when people listen to themselves, they become better at understanding their own thoughts and emotions.
    Listening to both others and yourself is critical towards becoming self-aware. This helps help employees see a truer, more complete picture.
  • 4. Run a 360 degree feedback
    360 Degree feedback is a multi-rater feedback exercise wherein responses are gathered from different people across the hierarchy (managers, co-workers, direct reports & external stakeholders etc.).
    Running an effective 360 degree feedback exercise will help your team:
    • Gain Self Awareness – see themselves as others see them.
    • Know what to do more, differently or better.
    • Become more aware of the relevance of performance metrics.
    • Improve & develop potential.
    A 360 Degree Feedback program also helps organizations:
    • Identify true talent of employees.
    • Carry out the right Training Needs Analysis (TNA).
    • Launch targeted training & coaching initiatives.
    • Build Leadership Development Programs.


Self-awareness helps individuals become happier, more confident & productive employees and leaders. Whatever initiatives an organization takes up in order encourage and nurture self-awareness among employees, the key is to follow-up.

Building upon self-awareness is not a onetime thing, it’s an ongoing process. Start by sensitizing your teams on the benefits of self-awareness. Develop the right conditions conducive to employees realizing their full potential. If cultivated in the right spirit, self-awareness can be your teams’ greatest asset.