Developing habits to increase self-awareness is a key to career management, professional development, and personal growth.

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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 that adage, and it’s especially applicable to knowing yourself as a professional.  Developing self-awareness is a critical component of being a dynamic professional employee.

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.

However, just because self-knowledge is difficult doesn’t mean it’s impossible. There are quite a few 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 strong believer in triangulating multiple assessment methods to get a better picture of who you are as an individual and as a professional. With that in mind, allow me to use the acronym InTROSPECT to show you how to build a successful, comprehensive self-assessment strategy.  InTROSPECT stands for Inquire, Test, Reflect, Organize, Plan, Experiment, Confer, and Tune.

Inquire

The first step to successful self-assessment is the inquiry. Inquiry means, simply, asking yourself where you are and where you’d like to be.

There are also some excellent online resources that help you through the process of creating a self-inventory.  They include

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

 

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 strong personal inventory, enlist three to five close friends and family and, if appropriate, two to three coworkers, and ask to them share their perspective of who you are.  If they need prompting, you might consider the following:

  • What are my top five strengths?
  • What are my two biggest 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.  Also, remember that asking five to eight people allows you to triangulate.  Discard the outlying comments and focus on what you hear from multiple sources.

Test Your Personality

Since the days of What Color is Your Parachute, professionals have been using self-assessment tools to test their personalities. Today, you can utilize those tools; some are as simple as online tests.

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

Most are inexpensive, yet they provide accurate, objective, details about you as an individual.  Each has a different focus, so reviewing them in combination allows you to cross-reference.

Reflect
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Self-assessment and self-testing will be of no use to you if you don’t utilize the information. Periodically, 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?

Organize

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

Substantiate Your View

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 path.

Plan

You’ve gathered information about yourself through self-assessment, testing and through the thoughts of others you trust. 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 which align with your observations.

Organizing your thoughts in an online tool, like AccompliTrack, or in a journal will not only serve to aid you in remembering your goals but 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 of examples.

  • I want to be more cognizant 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.

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 simply see what happens!

  • To help me be more cognizant 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 I attend, I will make an observation about 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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Confer

Never underestimate the power of an outside opinion. Take advantage of those people you’ve conferred with in the past 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 consider your comfort level and understanding of your personal goals.

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 constantly gain a better understanding of who you are.  By making this a regular part of your personal development, you’ll be able to develop objective self-awareness.