Self-awareness is 'the conscious knowledge of one's own character and feelings'; it is one of the fundamental elements of emotional intelligence and sets apart the mature from the naïve and enables us to engage in true learning and self-development. After all, if you don't know where you are now, how do you know where you want to get to and how you will get there? Self-awareness is the basic starting block for self-improvement.
Coaching in itself is a great way to increase self-awareness. A good coach will act as a mirror reflecting back to you the parts of yourself that you don't want to see. A good coach will not shy away from shining a light on the places you have intentionally or unwittingly left dark.
As well as the coaching process itself we find it helpful to use self-assessments to deepen your awareness of your personality, values, strengths and blind spots. One great tool for this is CliftonStrengths.
CliftonStrengths is an assessment tool that uncovers a person's natural talents - the thoughts, feelings and behaviours that are naturally occurring. These talents come so easily to us that we might not even consider them as strengths - we assume everyone thinks in this way.
StrengthsFinder consists of 34 talents themes which each describe common patterns of behaviour. Talent themes include Activator, Communication, Strategic Thinking, Individualization and Empathy.
Some benefits of using CliftonStrengths to support your coaching journey include:
Know how you work best
StrengthsFinder doesn't describe WHAT someone does; it describes HOW they do it. For example, someone high in the Individualization strength will always treat people differently according to their unique personality and needs. They have an eye for individual preferences and will target their approach for each person. In a manager, this could present itself as crafting a different management approach for each person. CliftonStrengths says that successful people achieve similar results but they do it in very different ways. What works for one person might not work for another so StrengthsFinder is a great tool for helping people to craft their own approach to their work. This means adapting the way you do your job to capitalize on your talents. For example, someone high in the Communication talent might find they make better decisions when they have had a chance to talk it over with a colleague whereas someone high in the Intellection strength might benefit more from dedicating some time for deep thinking before making a decision. Having the awareness of your strengths sets yourself up for success in working in a way that suits you.
Work better with your colleagues
What we lack in ourselves is often what frustrates us in others. Where someone is experiencing challenges or conflict with colleagues the clue to these problems can often be found in their strengths. When working in organisations where we have the benefit of having access to the strengths of the whole team we can use this to highlight the possible root causes of some of the differences experienced between colleagues. For example, some strengths are 'fast strengths' (Activator, Adaptability, Arranger, Command, WOO) they like immediate action and can change at a moments notice; while other strengths are 'slow strengths' (Analytical, Deliberative, Discipline, Intellection) they like to take their time and consider any changes in direction carefully. If we are not careful these differences can cause conflicts, where we try to make others 'do things our way', ultimately to the detriment of the process and/or the relationship. Through strengths, we can learn to appreciate the value that the other person is bringing to the process and know how to combine our strengths for a better result. For example, an Activator who wants to get going right now would benefit from partnering with someone high in the Analytical strength to help them ensure they have thought everything through before making a move. The Analytical person would similarly benefit from the Activator who can push them to take action.
Ensure your 'weaknesses' don't hold them back
We all have things we are not so good at, we can call them 'blind spots' or 'opportunities for improvement' or just good old-fashioned 'weaknesses'. The strengths philosophy says that people who focus on investing in and improving their strengths will see the greatest levels of performance. If you invest in improving your weaknesses you will achieve average performance but never exceptional. A sports analogy highlights this. I play tennis and have a significantly better backhand than forehand. I work on my forehand so that it doesn't make me lose games - to ensure I can hit the ball in! But I know that my backhand is where I will win points, so I leverage that strength and ensure I work on improving my backhand so it is a good as it can be. I will then play the game so that I can capitalise on that strength - by playing on the left in doubles and positioning myself to return serves with my backhand. Using CliftonStrengths helps you to know your weaknesses and plan strategies to ensure they don't get in the way of your success and to plan a workaround to use a strength instead.
Be happier and more engaged in their work and life
Research by Gallup shows that people who use their strengths at work each day are three times as likely to report having an excellent quality of life and are six times as likely to be engaged in their jobs. When you are working in your 'strengths zone' you feel happier and more productive because you are doing what comes naturally to you, rather than fighting an uphill battle trying to do something that you find uncomfortable and unnatural. By bringing awareness to your strengths you can live a more fulfilled and engaged life.