Develop Your Self-Awareness By Understanding Your Preferences
Strong self-awareness is the first and most important step to being an effective leader. Keep reading to learn about how reflecting on your preferences will help you be a better leader.
I’ve always been fascinated by interpersonal communication. How and why we communicate the way we do, what causes miscommunications so often, and why it is so frustrating to talk to and work with certain people.
Sometimes it is hard to put a finger on why someone just rubs you the wrong way. They just do! The way they operate doesn’t make sense (to you). And the way you operate likely makes no sense (to them).
But we have to work with each other. We have to work with people who don’t “make sense” to us all of the time.
As much as you might be thinking, “Oh, I just work around those people and ignore them as much as I can,” we both know that is not a sustainable solution.
By not communicating and collaborating with people, you miss out on so much potential value: ideas and perspectives that can only come from the melding of two minds. You’ll also likely end up with disengaged and less productive team members.
So, what do you do?
Start with developing your self-awareness. The first step is becoming aware of your preferences.
Pref·er·ence /ˈpref(ə)rəns/ : a greater liking for one alternative over another or others.
I particularly like MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) because it assesses our preferences, not necessarily our behaviors. And that is often where conflicts show up: in the space between our behavior and our preferences.
People make assumptions about us based on what they see and hear. Based on our behaviors. Our behaviors are learned and we adapt them depending on our environment. But our behavior doesn’t always reflect what we prefer or how we feel.
Let’s consider Rebecca.
Rebecca is very outspoken during a team meeting. Her manager assumes she is engaged and everything is positive. She is grateful for Rebecca’s input. Internally, however, Rebecca is incredibly stressed. She needs time to process independently before sharing ideas or giving feedback out loud. She leaves that team meeting frustrated because the ideas she shared weren’t thought out. She felt put on the spot. Rebecca is angry at her manager. Rebecca’s behavior does not align with her experience. This is the gap.
How we behave at work or in certain personal relationships isn’t necessarily our preference, it is just what works best in that context. We are better at adapting than we give ourselves credit for.
A lack of awareness of our preferences can cause a lot of confusion, conflict and frustration, both internally and with others. If we don’t know our own preferences, we can’t communicate them to others and we definitely can’t expect our team members to plan meetings in a more inclusive way.
If Rebecca was consciously aware of her preference to process new information independently (as opposed to processing information out loud in a team setting), she could have communicated that to her manager.
By advocating for herself, Rebecca could have enabled her manager to plan for that meeting differently. Rebecca also would have established a foundation of trust so that in the future she could speak more honestly with her manager. And with a better understanding of her employee, Rebecca’s manager would be less likely to make assumptions in the future.
Self awareness of your preferences allows you to share them and advocate for yourself. It doesn’t mean things will always fit into your preferences, but you will have created the space to clearly communicate them. It opens up a line of communication to resolve misunderstandings and move past frustrations before they grow into a bigger conflicts. And it creates the space to develop a more inclusive working environment that considers diverse ways of working.
The most important relationship is the one you have with yourself. If you want to effectively communicate and collaborate with others, it is critical to develop your self awareness. The better you know yourself, the better you’ll be able to advocate for yourself!
If you’re interested in learning more about your preferences and how to be your own best advocate, I’d love to hear from you.
We can work together one-on-one to uncover your MBTI type or I can work with your team in a group setting to explore how the diversity in preferences impacts your team’s effectiveness.
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