Making Sense of Work with Jean Balfour

Ep. #4. Self Awareness

February 25, 2022 Jean Balfour Season 1 Episode 4
Making Sense of Work with Jean Balfour
Ep. #4. Self Awareness
Show Notes Transcript

This is the first in a series of episodes about the importance of self awareness in our working lives. 

One of the things that Jean has learned over 30 years of consulting is how much being self-aware is important in our working lives and in our personal lives. If we want to make sense of every aspect of work, we need to understand our approach to it and what we're bringing to it.

In this episode she talks about why being self aware is important at work. Using personal examples and practical approaches she describes how we can deepen our self awareness.

She does a deep dive into how our current mood affects us at work and how we can learn to be more aware and lessen the impact on us and the people around us. 

https://hbr.org/2015/01/the-authenticity-paradox

https://www.instagram.com/jean.balfour/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeanbalfour/

https://www.baileybalfour.com

Jean:

Hi everyone. And welcome to this episode of making sense of work. This is the first in a series of episodes about the importance of self awareness in our working lives. One of the things that I've learned over 30 years of consulting is how much being self-aware is important in our working lives and in our personal lives, if we want to make sense of every aspect of work, we need to understand our approach to it and what we're bringing to it. Over the next few episodes, I'm going to do a deep dive into what self-awareness is and why it matters at work. I'll explore, 10 different types of self-awareness. And for each one I'm going to identify what we can do to improve our understanding of ourselves and to understand our impact on others and on our work. And right at the heart of this for me, is that I believe that without self-awareness, it's really hard for us to make sense of our working lives. We have a relationship to our work and the relationship to our work is often our own creation, we can enjoy work or we can struggle with it. We can choose how we interact with work and with the people around us and without awareness of how I'm approaching work is hard to identify how to approach it differently. I need to find ways and identify areas that I'm strong and less strong. And it's hard to know if I'm not aware of this, how others experience me either as a colleague or a leader or a friend or client, or even a stakeholder. So this series is all about my view that self-awareness brings choice and choice brings considered and thoughtful action. And we're going to come back to that theme time. And again, how can I be more self-aware so I can think about how I'm acting. But before we move into that, let me explain what I mean by giving you a personal example. I consider myself to be a very self-aware person. I've had a lot of therapy done, a lot of journaling and meditation. I've intentionally worked on understanding my drivers values, triggers, beliefs. I'm in touch with my feelings. You get the point. It's been a part of my continued development and I've been very intentional about. However, I still receive feedback about how I come across or interact with people which surprises me. It's in a blind spot for me. We all have blind spots. And I seem to still have some. A couple of years ago, I was talking about perfectionism with a friend and said how I didn't think that I was a perfectionist and he really disagreed and strongly suggested that I look into myself and see what emerged. Now it's all you did this kind of reflection. I realized I wasn't a perfectionist in some areas. So when it comes to grammar or being tidy, I'm not really. Uh, that careful as many people will attest but he was right about other areas. I am a perfectionist in relation to getting things right for people in my work. For me, it's linked to my please people driver and my personal drive to be successful in my work. I saw, as I thought about it, how often I tried so hard to get it right for others or right in the situation that I was in that I didn't step back and look at the bigger picture I was too busy making it perfect for them. It had other implications. I stopped delegating as much as I could. And I really believe, and I teach that when we are delegating, we're really saying, I don't trust you to the people. We're not delegating to. We, we say we don't believe that you can do the job as well. So I'm, it stopped me from trusting them. His reflections and my own inquiry have helped me to understand more and more about my own perfectionism and to seek to overcome it when it's not relevant. So thanks to this increased self-awareness. I continue to be aware of the impact it's having both on me and on others around me. And I have learned to let go to trust more. And also to see that whilst others are doing things differently, it may be is okay. That it doesn't have to be the same as me and all of this links back to my belief that everything we do and everything we learn connect somehow to self-awareness. I believe that when we're aware, And accept whatever comes up with our awareness, good or bad, we can then respond rather than react. We get to choose how others see us, because we're aware of how we come across. There are lots of ways. This affects us when we're not aware of our emotions. For example, they may bizarrely affect the quality of our work because when we're flooded with emotions, it makes it harder for us to be present and focused on our work. Maybe I've lost awareness of how my job connects to my purpose. And that might cause me to lose motivation, or I may not be aware of what my triggers are, hot buttons are. And then I find myself overreacting to situations and then regretting it afterwards. Maybe I'm experiencing imposter syndrome without really knowing what the reality of the situation is or where my strengths are. And therefore the imposter syndrome is, are necessary. If I'm not aware of my feelings, it may mean that I'm being moody and my moods may affect others. Or I might be someone who likes to critique and analyze things, but I'm not seeing the impact on the people I work with who are tired of their work being critiqued. My lack of self-awareness may be affecting how I am with clients, maybe affecting what I bring to the client relationship. And it may be stopping my clients from being as effective as they could be. As a team member am I aware of where my strengths lie? Do I know how others see me in my work? How am I as a leader and how do others perceive me? We can't develop as leaders if we aren't aware of how we're being perceived by others. So these are many examples and there's many, many more of how there's a link to self-awareness and how effective we're being at work. So I wanted to give you an example of this in more depth now, and to help you to see how it can impact what's happening for us. And I've chosen an area that I suspect is relevant for most people. So I wonder, do you ever procrastinate about doing something? I certainly do. I don't have a big procrastination gene but I can certainly put some things off. The problem with procrastination is that it causes us pain. We know we've got to do something it's at the back of our mind and we can't get round to it, but it also causes others pain because they're waiting for us to finish it. And we keep putting it to the bottom of the. If we can deepen our self awareness, we maybe can understand what's really going on. And then this will help us to get it done. And it takes it off our pile. Understanding the reason for procrastination means I might get to lock to know where my choices lie. For example, often we procrastinate because we're scared or not sure. We don't quite know what it is that we should do, or we don't know how to start. And if this is the case, once I'm aware of it, I could go and get some help. I could just talk to somebody to see if they can help me work out what the first step is, or help me answer the questions that I'm struggling with. Or maybe I'm procrastinating because I have a limiting self-belief that I'm not good enough at this type of work, preparing for a presentation. As an example of this, I don't prepare because I think I won't speak. That's of course is counterproductive because if I don't prepare, I want to speak well, but in stayed, I could acknowledge that I have a fear of public speaking. And then I could decide to do the planning when I'm feeling most creative, or I could ask a friend to help with preparation or rehearsal. Another reason I might be that I can't see why this piece of what meshes or how it connects to my purpose or the purpose of my team. And, um, I'm not really motivated to do it. So here once again, I could talk to somebody I could go and talk to the person who's asked me to do the work and ask them to explain more about the context behind the. Finally, I may just find that I'm really, don't like this type of work. I find it boring or just add enjoyable. Well, we all have to do work that we don't like at times, and this might be a situation where we just give ourselves a talking to set a timeline, to do the work, promise ourselves a reward. All of these are an example of how, if we do a deep dive into an area of our working life and really become aware of what's going on for us, then we are better, we're able to make choices and to act. And in the case of procrastination, it's a better impact on us and on the people around us. Why then is self-awareness so important. Is there any research telling us that this what seems intuitively right is also important? One of course, you're probably thinking now about the extensive research around emotional intelligence self-awareness is right at the heart of emotional intelligence. And we know from the research. Um, emotional intelligence that when we are emotionally intelligent, it leads to increased success at work. In fact, one study found that emotionally intelligent individuals got greater increases in their performance reviews. They had higher company positions. They also receive better feedback from their peers about how they were relationally and they had better stress management. So deepening. Self-awareness and improving our emotional intelligence leads to higher performance, higher seniority, greater interpersonal relationships and stress management. That's all sounds good. And Daniel Goleman described self-awareness as the ability to understand our moods emotions and drives as well as their effect on others. And I think this is really important. He's describing self-awareness is being internal. I understand myself. I'm aware of myself and external. I am aware of how I'm affecting others. So, what we're seeing is that self-awareness impacts a lot of parts of our lives. And we can see that research is telling us that it has a big impact on our working life. But despite this, sometimes coaching clients are a bit resistant to this idea of. Building self-awareness, they'll talk to me about feeling like their navel gazing, that they're just spending time sitting, becoming aware of what's going on for them. And they feel like it might be not a good use of their time in some clients. Also worried that doing that we're actually lead them to feeling worse. They're worried that we'll uncover limiting self beliefs or that they'll learn thoughts that they're having about colleagues that they're trying to pretend they're not having. But for me, I just come back to time and time again, if we're not aware of what's going on, we can't change it. It's only if we're self-aware that we can identify, what's holding us back and then we can change it. But if we don't know, we can't change it, we can't change what we're not aware of. And for me, this journey of self-awareness is therefore really an ongoing journey of personal growth and learning in order for me to be a more effective colleague, a more effective leader, a more effective coach. And because I think it's so important as. I'm going to do a deep dive into 10 different aspects of self-awareness. And for each of these, think about how they show up, how they help us to become more self-aware and also share ideas for deepening self-awareness in each area. You'll see, as we go through this. Deepening self awarenesses is like a never-ending onion. You peel one layer off and there's a nother layer beneath it. And I know for me, this has been very true that every time I think that's it, I'm feeling really, self-aware now another surprise or delicious piece of information comes along and it can sound a bit daunting to think. Oh, I've got to keep going on the self-awareness journey. And yet what I noticed for myself is that the more I do it, the better I am at responding to situations, the better I am at my work. And I guess from feedback, I get the better I am as a partner colleague and friend. In this episode, I'm going to now focus on the first type of awareness and I've chosen to start with an awareness of the mood that we're in. And then in the next three episodes, I'll go into the other nine areas that I'm going to explore. Okay. Let's start then with just a very little exercise. If you sit where you are now and just pause and ask yourself, what's my current mood. If I was to give a name to the mood that I'm in now, what would I give it? Because we're all in some form of mood, most of the time it might be that your mood is calm or happy or grumpy or sad or bored could be anything that's going on for you now. As I was preparing for this podcast, I went to the kitchen to make a cup of tea. And I thought I'd asked myself this question. What's my current state. What's my mood. And as I stood in the kitchen while the kettle was boiling, I that I know I'm actually feeling quite fed up of just two. I'm unable to travel over the Christmas period, due to the new variant. And this means I can't go and see family who I haven't seen for two years. And I realize as I'm standing in the kitchen, then I've been kind of ignoring how I was feeling about it. I'd been pushing it down because I didn't want to accept it. I didn't want to accept that we weren't traveling and I didn't want to accept how upset I was about it. When we became aware of where I was, I noticed that my shoulders were tight, my stomach was tight. And then I gave a name to my mood and that was cranky. And the thing about moods is that they are affected by things like this. This is an external event. But at work can be affected by so many things. They can be affected by the business results or doing a job and not being happy with it. Or they can be effected by receiving good news. Well, they can be affected by somebody saying something to us which upsets us. Or maybe we just read the news too often and that's affected our mood. And our moods can be affected by our internal selves. We might be worrying about something like how do we tell our boss that we're not happy about something at work? And it really matters that we understand their moods because without awareness of what's going on with our moods, we can lose focus and be distracted and we can affect others through our behavior. Or just simply by being moody. There's something called emotional contagion. Um, if you think about it and think about a time when something's happened and you feel like you're caught up in the emotions of the others around you, maybe somebody told a story and you were suddenly laughing in a way that seemed quite ridiculous, but you were all laughing in that way or something happened or somebody was sad next to you. And suddenly you were feeling that sadness. When one of us is feeling something strongly or is in a mood, others can catch it. And of course, if you're a leader, this is even more important. There's a, there's a lovely saying that if the CEO sneezes, the whole organization catches a cold, any mood that we're in can be felt by the people around. And so it's important that we become aware of these moods and then begin to think about how can I name it and then how can I move beyond it to a really practical place? There's a beautiful Viktor Frankl quote, where he says between stimulus and response, there is a space in that space is our power to choose our response. And in our response lies our growth and freedom. And in all self-awareness and perhaps, especially to do with, uh, those that are to do with moods or when we're triggered learning to become aware of where we are. And then think about how do we interrupt that so we can choose is just so important. It's go back to the, to your mood. Now just think about what it is. Acknowledge it. Don't try and change it at the beginning. Just notice it actually be kind to yourself, whatever it is, maybe you're feeling really happy will feel into that. Happiness smile. Really enjoy it. Maybe you're feeling annoyed. We're lean into that too. Just notice it. Notice your thinking. Notice your feelings. And be compassionate towards yourself when we are compassionate towards ourselves, we acknowledged that we're human, that we, all of us have moods, and we're able to just allow the feelings to come up. For me when I noticed that I was really cranky, I actually reminded myself that what was happening was genuinely annoying and disappointing. And actually it was okay to be upset, repressing my upset. It wasn't helping. It was just leaving me feeling sort of cross. And it was really important, therefore, to be aware of that, to let the feelings come up. Because if I didn't, um, there was a likelihood that I would be cranky with the other people around me. What I needed to do was take responsibility for being in this mood and acknowledge it, perhaps not wallow in it, but notice it and accept it. And then generally when we do. It passes through us, but at least we know, and even if we can't contain it or control it, we can say to the people around us, do you know what I'm feeling really upset at the moment? And, um, please forgive me if I'm not myself and all this, I believe leads to an increased self-awareness and an opportunity for us to choose how we are and to treat ourselves with humans. Kindness. If you like with human compassion, this is one area of self-awareness. It's the area of thinking about what mood are we in? And self-awareness is like a picture really with so many colors and textures. It's almost like a tapestry. And then I invite you as we go on this journey over the next few episodes to really be thinking about how can I work on myself awareness so that I am able to make some different choices. And now I'm going to, go over to the questions which the people have kindly joined me today on the call have asked. And, um, thank you so much for joining me. The first question is for someone who isn't wired to learn. That's those who may have a fixed mindset, how can self-awareness be coached or learn so that the person can grow. Um, when I've had quite a bit of experience of this, My starting point for this is that I, I believe that nobody is either fixed mindset or growth mindset all the time. I believe all of us can get stuck and have a fixed mindset about something. And all of us, there will be things that we're curious and interested about and can learn from. If I'm coaching somebody who's really struggling even to believe that emotional intelligence and self-awareness matters, I will spend some time with them exploring the areas of their life that they do really enjoy, and that they really love to learn. So I'll start with going to their strengths, going to the places that excite them and fire them up. And then when we're exploring that I might help them to see that there are parts of that world, that if they deepen their understanding or their self-awareness, it might help them in that area. And, If I think about an example of some of the doctors I've worked with over the years, they, um, will be very excited about, um, either a new piece of research or a particular way that they can help their patients. And if I can help them to see that if they're willing to. To think about themselves in relation to the research or themselves in relation to the patient and holding that patient or that research at the center of it, then they're quite often able to understand the importance and the connection. It's really starting with the person, where are they? What's exciting for them. Thank you. Um, another question is can excessive of self-awareness lead to too much focus on self and get in the way of others. Perceptions of needs. How do we keep a good balance? Yeah, this is so important. And actually it links back to what I said earlier that sometimes. Uh, coaching clients or people on leadership programs are concerned about this. Very question, that concern that if they spend too much time in self-awareness, then they might just get lost. I might just go internally and get lost. And, I guess it's really about for all of us holding that balance. Back to Daniel Goleman's definition of self-awareness. He says that effect of self-awareness is internal and external I'm in becoming more self-aware it's helping me to live better with myself to work better, and it's helping me to live and work better with other people. And it's really important that. Keep in connection with that. I keep reflecting back to how are others perceiving me? What am I seeing about their reactions to me? And then I just keep reminding myself about that because in a way it's kind of pointless becoming really deeply self-aware if I'm not aware of that, I'm becoming isolated and an island, I think. Here's another question about procrastination. How do you become aware of why you're procrastinating, whether it's due to a self limiting belief or because of fear of failure or because of many other issues? I mean, offer procrastination is a range of issues. It's the kind of breadth of things. And I guess for me with, with all of these types of self-awareness, we'll see this as we go through the series, there are a kind of range of standard things that you can do. So the first one is, start writing it down. Just write down the question. What are the reasons I'm procrastinating. And actually just asking that question, triggers your brain into a kind of analytical state where it will start to look for the reasons that you're procrastinating and you can just drop them down and you might give yourself. I a number, maybe you want to get 10 reasons that you're procrastinating and then you could go back and rank them and see which of these is the most likely and begin to work on it. In that way. Many, many years ago, I had a client who was procrastinating a lot and really struggling with it. And we worked out, through the coaching, which of course is another way that you can become aware, that it was because. The things that this client were procrastinating around involved, some really deep thinking, and it was difficult for the client to prioritize the time for the deep thinking. And so then we just developed strategies to prioritize the time for the deep thinking so that these jobs could get done. Um, so you could do that. You could do some peer coaching with somebody. It's really, it's just asking that question. What are the reasons I'm procrastinating and really being willing to sit with that and look at it. Okay. And now the question here, how do paternal or cultural norms of being self-sufficient to toughen up impact, willingness to explore self-awareness and how has the coach, could you address that? Yeah, so I've really experienced this. It's it's not even just necessarily pertain or cultural norms. There's certainly, my experience of some generational differences, about a willingness to be self-aware or this expectation, which I think you're talking about of come on, just get on and do the job. We don't need the self-awareness. Um, what I inclined to do and what I have done with people in the spaces is help them to look at the research because. Research can often tell a story that a person like me who's who's um, clearly invested in self-awareness is not going to tell for some people who are a bit resistant or not sure whether it's worth it. I might point them in the direction of some of the emotional intelligence papers, for example, that harvard business review is got some really good articles on why and how it matters. That would be one example. Um, another thing I might do is help them to look at role models. Look at people who are in the, either in the public eye or leaders that they have in their organization who are self-aware and being. Self-sufficient and tough at the same time, because the two are not mutually exclusive and help them to see and explore what it is that they're doing. I guess that's really about finding role models and helping them to look into that. Yeah. And there's a final question. Sometimes I feel that making an effort to notice my own actions, feelings, thoughts, leads me to judging and controlling myself with what I should do. And I lose sense of my natural being, adding more stress. How do you explain this from a self-awareness perspective? Yeah. My own experience of this is that the judging and controlling voices, uh, internalized voices from past present and what I perceive to be the future, they might be internalized voices from, um, teachers, leaders, parents about how we should be acting that. Things that we use the word called introjection, we've taken in views from around us and made them almost own because the voice sounds like our own, the judging and controlling voice sounds like our own and it may not be and natural state. Um, and what I do with this, cause I certainly have lots of experience of those internal voices is. It's just to keep asking myself, um, if I'm living with integrity within myself, what's my own truth about this. Self-awareness um, I mean, an example of it can be feedback that we're given. That we think is in service of self awareness. So we internalize it and yet, and we think about it and we take it on board and it all the time, it's not quite sitting with us cause it doesn't feel quite right. Well, in that example, it might be that the feedback said a lot more about the person giving the feedback than it did about us. Or it might say something about how we're coming across, but not about who we see ourselves as being. I guess what I'm saying is it's good for us to kind of move into a place of both analyzing, asking where those internal. Stories or messages are coming from and continually going back to what's my integrity. What's important for me. And sometimes we'll find that our integrity actually might need to change. It might be that one of the ways that we're being is actually being quite difficult for other people around us, but oftentimes our integrity is good for us and helps us to be good with others. And it's really about asking that question. How does this sit with me? And if it does. What do I do with that? How do I live comfortably with this awareness? Maybe this distance, even. Thank you so much for those great questions today. At the beginning of this, I said that I hold and teach that awareness brings choice and choice brings considered action. And in this podcast, we've really explored the depth of what that is and why it matters as we go into the next few episodes. I hope you'll come on this journey with me of exploring and deepening your own self-awareness and I encourage and invite you to over the next couple of hours, just to be aware, to notice where you are and what's going on and see whether that can help you to make more informed choices. Just after we stop the recording for the session. One of the group asks this brilliant question. What's the intersection between vulnerability and moodiness. And I really felt that I wanted to answer it. The thing about vulnerability and authenticity as we've been talking about it over the last few years is that we and particularly leaders should share their vulnerability and show how. And in some cases, the suggestion is most of the time. And so I've been really impacted by Herminia Ibarra, Ybarra is our school, the authenticity paradox it's in that Harvard business review. And she describes it in, in my words, I think it's, it's contextual authenticity. So if we think about being in a mood. In a cranky mood as I was talking about, it might be okay for that, for me to share that with my peers, if I'm a senior leader, because they're, my peers they'll understand me. They won't necessarily be affected by it, but it may not be okay for me to share that with somebody who's much more junior in the organization. Be a bit effected by my cranky mood and maybe feel that the organization's not stable or safe. And so it's, it's important that in learning to understand vulnerability and authenticity and in connection to self-awareness that we think about our audience, we think about how am I affecting others by what I'm sharing and how I'm being in the environment.