7 Ways to Develop Self-Awareness

February 25, 2012 — Leave A Comment

Want to know the #1 reason leaders hire a coach?

I’d love to say it’s because they want to maximize their potential. They want to dream bigger, and become more fully the person and the leader that God has called them to be. They want to get free of longstanding struggles and maximize their impact and effectiveness as a leader, and they recognize the value of partnering with a skilled ally to help them achieve that goal.

But that’s not usually why they come.

Most often, the reason leaders hire a coach is because “it’s not working anymore.”

Whatever they’ve been doing, however they’ve been leading, whatever has worked like gangbusters in the past, it’s hit some kind of impenetrable wall. It’s suddenly producing negative returns, either internally or externally, or (more often) both. It’s painful. And, having already tried everything they know to “fix it,” they turn to coaching.

And can you guess the most common reason why “it’s not working anymore”? Blind spots. Lack of self-awareness. Every leader has a shadow side…a broken, disowned part that is driven by fear and ego. And for many, this “false self” has been driving their leadership from the beginning, like a computer virus quietly infecting an otherwise powerful software program. And the effects are finally beginning to show.

“This unconscious striving is very dangerous for us and for those around us; it will eventually burn us out since there is no amount of achievement that will ultimately satisfy the emptiness of the human soul. And the people we work with will eventually notice that they are mere cogs in the wheel of our own ego-driven plans.” ~ Ruth Haley Barton

The regular practice of deepening self-awareness and self-knowledge is a critical skill many leaders overlook ~ to their own hurt and the hurt of those they mean to serve. But for those who are willing, the practice unlocks your leadership in a way few things can.

So how do you develop the skill of self-awareness? Here are 7 tips I often suggest to my clients:

  • Take at least one full day for solitude every month. Prepare a list of questions ahead of time. Questions for yourself, and questions for God. Spend the day unplugged from technology and pray as you journal through your questions one by one.
  • Practice the Daily Examen. Here’s a link to several forms of the Examen you can try for yourself.
  • Partner with a Spiritual Director. Engage with him or her before, during and after your solitude days, and as a cornerstone of your personal and spiritual growth. Here’s one I recommend.
  • Form a “spiritual running partner” triad. Invite two other trusted, mature souls into the inner circle of your life. Meet regularly. Make it priority. Share everything, including things you don’t share with anyone else. And invite them to regularly hold up a mirror to reveal your blind spots and challenge you to stretch beyond your comfort zone.
  • Spend daily time with God that is NOT connected to your work life. Personal stuff only. Avoid having only a “working relationship” with God.
  • Read books that stretch you to grow in self-awareness. Two I would suggest are Emotionally Healthy Spirituality and Practicing Greatness.
  • Partner with a trained and certified Leadership Coach. I offer a Leadership Circle Profile that goes right to heart of revealing leadership blind spots and charting a course to overcome them. (Once you click the link, just scroll down the page a bit to see the description.)

What other regular practices would you add to the list?

Michael Warden

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