How self-aware are you? Before you answer, let’s make sure we are talking about the same thing. Self-awareness means being cognizant of what you’re good at, and at the same time able to admit where you still have work to do. Having self-awareness requires character strength. The kind of character strength that enables you to take an objective look at your imperfections while keeping things in perspective and going on about your business.
Showing up with self-awareness increases your credibility—big time. Showing up without self-awareness, on the other hand, can be the single biggest roadblock to achieving your potential.
“… many of us operate on the belief that we must appear as though we know everything all the time or else people will question our abilities, diminishing our effectiveness as leaders. If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll admit that really the opposite is true. Because whether you acknowledge your weaknesses or not, everyone still sees them. So rather than conceal them, the person who tries to hide weaknesses actually highlights them, creating the perception of a lack of integrity and self-awareness.”
— Chris Musselwhite, CEO and founder of Discovery Learning, Inc.
The leadership development work we do with our clients at The Essential Group begins with self-awareness. It is at the very foundation of serious personal and professional growth. Curiously enough, building self-awareness is not often at the top of the list of things we think we need to work on.
Let’s look at the connection between self-awareness and professional excellence. With heightened self-awareness, you are able to practice skillful self-management. Your ability to self-manage governs how you show up more than anything else and is key to achieving and sustaining high performance at more and more advanced levels of your career. So what is it? Self-management is the ability to use self-awareness to make better choices about what you think, say, and do.
- Self-management is the ability to use self-awareness to make better choices about what you think, say, and do.
This learning journey will build on the self-awareness you already have right now, increasing your awareness about your behaviors, as well as the underlying motivations that drive those behaviors. It will also expand your ability to make sense of yourself in a different manner than you do today; in other words, this program aims to drive not just greater self-awareness, but also a qualitative difference in how you are self-aware.
- We achieve this by working with something called “vertical development”.
Vertical development is a concept that comes from the adult learning field of study and is the route by which we come to discover entirely new ways of showing up. Most professional training comes at learning with a focus on horizontal development rather than vertical development. Here’s an explanation of the distinction between these two types of learning:
“If horizontal development is concerned with content and what we know, vertical development is concerned with how we know it .… horizontal development is the gradual accumulation of new knowledge, new skills and experience, which can occur without any fundamental change in the individual’s overall meaning making, epistemology or worldview. Vertical development on the other hand… entails a complete transformation in the individual’s meaning-making and in their overall view of reality that in turn transforms what they think, how they feel and what they do.”
—excerpted from Transformation in Leadership, Part 1: A Developmental Study of Warren Buffett, by Edward J. Kelly (PhD)
While horizontal development can be thought of as rearranging the furniture, vertical development is like discovering a top floor you never knew existed in the house you’ve lived in your whole life. Another way of thinking about this is that vertical development offers the potential to learn whole new ways of making sense of your experience of the world, of others, and of yourself.
In your experiments this week, you’ll be asked to undertake a self-assessment to start peeling back the layers of your own way of making meaning. This is an early step toward the kind of vertical learning we want to encourage in the CCO. Don’t rush it or skip it, even if you don’t feel like doing it. I promise, time spent here will be worth your while.