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Self Awareness – A Must-Have Ingredient for Career Success

By Galia-BarHava-Monteith

Before you read on, take a minute or two to reflect on your definition of success.

  • Is it about money?
  • Is it about status?
  • Is it about meaning?

A Definition of Success

At Professionelle, we consider successful women to be those who have made an impact in their chosen field, operate with integrity, live with well being, are passionate about what they do, comfortable with the choices they made – and derive an income from their work.

Although this is a very personal view we have found in presentations and discussions that our empirically distilled findings strike a strong chord with professional working women.

So what are the three key ingredients we, in Professionelle, have found professional women to have in common and which are all under their control?

  1. Self awareness (personal insight)
  2. Trusted advisors they can turn to throughout their career
  3. Drive and zest, the willingness to work hard

This article is about the first, and to me the most critical, ingredient: self awareness.

What is Self Awareness?

My coaching clients and I spend a lot of time in our sessions developing their self awareness. It’s not because they are not self aware, it’s because you can never have too much self awareness.

Self awareness is not naval gazing. Far from it. Self awareness is about regularly working to better understand why we each think, feel and behave in the way that we do. Self aware people are aware of their strengths and weaknesses, what their core values are, and how the latter influence their behaviour.

Self Aware and In Control

Women we consider successful come across as always being ‘together’ and ‘in-control’.  They are able to recognise when their lives start spiralling out of control and they take back control. They face pressures yet they deal with them with grace and ease. These women seem to be able to contain their hectic schedules and the challenges they face without resorting to ‘drama’.

They are generally healthy and they find time to prioritise exercise.

I have come to realise that these women manage to do all of this through their tremendous powers of self-insight. They are aware of themselves and monitor their own well being, pulling back when they need to do so to avoid burning the candle at both ends. They will be the first to admit that they can reach breaking point, and that their lives aren’t perfect. But they deal with this in a private and controlled manner, making the changes that need to be made and then setting themselves on a course to take back control and get on top of things.

Self Aware and In Tune

Successful women are also aware of how they come across to others and they actively modify their behaviour depending on the setting and company. That doesn’t mean they are manipulative, it means they are in tune with their environment and sensitive to those around them. When they need to be tough they can be very tough, but they can also be supportive and warm when the situation calls for it. In short, through their self-insight they are able to monitor themselves and others and make the best of most situations including the adverse ones.

Queen Bees

In Professionelle, we don’t like to linger on the negative, but it has to be said that the women we consider successful are NOT ‘Queen Bees’. To those of you unfamiliar with the term, Queen Bees are those successful women who have climbed to the very top of organisations and institutions and who seem to have then ‘pulled the ladder up behind them’. They make it difficult for younger, less experienced women to follow in their footsteps. We observe that many Queen Bees lack the self awareness of how they come across to others and the impact they have on colleagues. In fact, I’d hazard a guess that quite a few of them would be genuinely horrified to discover how poorly they are perceived by those around them.

Strategies for Self Awareness

In our networking seminars, we make a point of focusing on the strategies that YOU can control to develop each of the ingredients in your own life. Here’s a taste of the core strategies you can employ to become self-aware.

1st Strategy: A clear, personal definition of success

In our experience, successful women are very clear about their own definition of success and with that clarity of self-insight comes confidence which they radiate and which enhances their ‘successful’ image. Because that definition is self-driven, they are not reliant on other people’s perceptions of them. Thus, whether or not they feel successful is fully under their control.

2nd Strategy: Open to feedback, seeks perspective

Successful women’s self insight derives from their appreciation of who they are, from clarity about what they are trying to achieve and from knowing how to keep themselves ‘real’.  To many of them this is an explicit goal. When we interview successful women, they referred to it as making sure that they always remain grounded and don’t let their success get to their heads. To do this they seek input  through their relationships with partners and children as well as with old friends and through their professional and personal relationships.

They use their curiosity (which they all have in common) to ‘get to know themselves’ by actively seeking and listening to feedback from friends, family and trusted advisors. They have a real sense of humility – they come across as approachable despite the fact that they can also be very formidable.

They also extend their self-knowledge through reading, attending courses and online learning – all for the explicit goal of increasing self awareness and perspective.

3rd Strategy: Self-check strategies

In the same way they are curious about getting to know themselves, successful women are also curious about how they are doing physically, emotionally and psychologically in dealing with their high volume of work and the stress that comes with it. They develop ways to keep on top of things; they know when to slow down or take on more challenges and they make the time to exercise and keep healthy.  By prioritising their well being, they are able to ‘catch’ themselves before they burn out. They can deliberately take some time off for themselves and resolve matters before the situation escalates.

Even though so many of these women deal with big issues and hold big jobs with many challenges, there never seems to be much ‘drama’ in their lives. The reason, it seems to us, is that through constantly being aware of where they are “at”, they resolve potential problems early on before they become bigger than Ben-Hur…

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