Developing habits to increase self-awareness is vital for career management, professional development, and personal growth.  Using self-assessment and feedback tools will build your awareness of your self and help you grow.

The Importance of Self-Knowledge

There is a Chinese proverb which advises, “If you want to know what water is, don’t ask a fish.” There’s much truth to this adage, and it’s especially applicable to knowing yourself.  Like the fish in water, we are immersed in ourselves.  Even when we’re aware of our strengths and shortcomings, it’s difficult to be objective about those details in a way that will be meaningful to others.

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However, while self-knowledge is challenging, it isn’t impossible.  There are many methods we can use to gain a better, broader picture of our strengths, our weaknesses, our value to others, and even our personal and professional goals.

The InTROSPECT Self-Awareness Framework™

I’m a firm believer in triangulating multiple assessment methods to get a better picture of who you are as an individual and as a professional. I designed the InTROSPECT™ framework to build a systematic and comprehensive self-assessment.  InTROSPECT stands for Inquire, Test, Reflect, Organize, Plan, Experiment, Confer, and Tune.

1.       Inquire

The first step to successful self-assessment is inquiry. Ask yourself who you are, where you are, and where you’d like to be.  Using a question inventory is a great way to complete a thorough inquiry.

Some excellent online resources help you through the process of creating a self-inventory include

The Proust Questionnaire 11 Powerful Questions to Ask Yourself
101 Questions To Ask Yourself in Life Personal Questions: Who Are You?

The last link is particularly useful.

Whatever questions you select, allow yourself to be completely honest.

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When you’ve done this yourself and feel that you’ve created a robust personal inventory, enlist three to five close friends or family members.  If appropriate, include two to three coworkers as well.  Ask them to share their perspective on who you are.  If they need prompting, you might consider the following questions:

  • What are my top five strengths?
  • Could you name my two most significant weaknesses?
  • List four adjectives you would use to describe me?
  • What do you admire about me?
  • Based on your observations, what are the most important things to me?
  • What’s one area I could change that would make me a better person?

You want to consider who you choose with care.  You want people who display self-awareness and who can speak fairly and candidly.  Also, remember that asking five to eight people allows you to triangulate.  Once you’ve done that discard the outlying comments and focus on what you hear from multiple sources.

2.       Test Your Personality

Since the days of What Color is Your Parachute, professionals have been using self-assessment tools to test their personalities and enhance professional development. However, now, you can access many tools online.

There are many solid assessment tools which can help you build a clearer picture of your personality and your strengths, as well as your weaknesses. These include

Each offers a detailed analysis of the results.  You can also find coaches and counselors who can help you understand the results.  None of them are over $50, yet they provide accurate, objective, details about you as an individual.  All four have a different focus, so reviewing them in combination allows you to cross-reference and build self-awareness.

3.       Reflect

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Self-assessment and testing won’t help if you don’t utilize the information. From time to time, as you work to identify your personality traits, meditate on what you’ve discovered. What does this information tell you about who you are? Which learning methods have worked most effectively for you? What can you do differently in the future?

4.       Organize

Once you’ve identified aspects of your personality, take the time to write them out. Organize them neatly to solidify them in your mind.  They don’t have to be perfect but should be easy to follow.  Characterize yourself in as many dimensions as you can and give yourself an example of those characteristics at their best and their worst.

5.       Substantiate

The next step to developing better self-awareness is broken down into three highly interconnected parts. Planning, experimenting, and conferring will allow you to substantiate your view. Through this process, you’ll validate that you are, in fact, on the right self-assessment and professional development path.

6.       Plan

You’ve gathered information about yourself through self-assessment, testing, and the thoughts of others whom you trust. Now it’s time to make a plan to put that information to use.  What are some specific, measurable goals that you can set to improve your self-awareness?  Set goals for yourself that align with your observations.

Organizing your thoughts in an online tool, like AccompliTrack, or in a journal will aid you in remembering your goals.  However, it will also give you a reference to look back on the next time you enter the self-assessment phase of the cycle.  Here are several examples.

  • I want to be more mindful of how important the team I work with is to my success.
  • Because I work in a stressful environment, I need to learn to respond less emotionally in stressful situations.
  • I want to be more observant of how my co-workers interact.
  • While I’m good at identifying broken processes, I want to be better at providing solutions.

Then outline plans which will ultimately lead to achieving your goals.

7.       Experiment

It’s time to put your plans into action. Create measurable criteria for some of your goals.  Make them as quantitative or as qualitative as you like, but be sure there is a concrete result, and see what happens!

  • To help me be more mindful of how important the team I work with is to my success, I want to intentionally acknowledge the contributions of at least one of my coworkers every week for four months.
  • During each regular meeting that I attend, I will observe the interactions of the participants to help me follow the dynamics of the group so I can do my part to make the meeting more cohesive.

How can you reinforce the areas where your self-awareness is strong?  How can you minimize your blind spots?

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8.       Confer

Never underestimate the power of an outside opinion. Reach out to the people you’ve conferred with previously and gain an outsider’s perspective as to how your plans have worked. Allow these colleagues and friends to dig deeper with you. It’s only through trial and error that you’ll gain a clear understanding of what will and will not work for you.

Note your colleagues’ observations and consider them. However, it’s imperative that you also think about your comfort level and understanding of your professional development goals.

9.       Tune

You’ve heard the phrase, “never stop learning.” Well, this also applies to learning about yourself. Self-assessment isn’t something you’ll do just once. You’ll complete these steps many, many times over your lifetime. Continue to fine-tune your goals, your plans, and your self-assessments to continually gain a better understanding of who you are.  By making this a regular part of your professional development, you’ll be able to develop objective self-awareness.

Self-Awareness in Review

Let me know what you think about the InTROSPECT framework and how you develop professionally and manage your career in the comments.