Know Thyself

How becoming self-aware can help make work a better place

Work can be complicated, dealing with other people’s agendas, desires and personalities can be difficult, let alone managing the actual task you’re paid to do.  A bad mixture of personalities can turn a workplace poisonous but when people work well together they can achieve almost anything.

Finding the right mix can make a big difference but remember you can’t control the feelings of others. Getting a decent understanding of those around you will help you work better with others and the best place to start that is trying to know yourself better.

Knowing how you react to things, what you’re good at and what you’re not good at, as well as how you like to do things can be invaluable. Once you know that you can communicate easily to others what you want, what you need, and how they can help.

Getting to know yourself and communicating your needs effectively are important steps. If you want to work with others and ask for favours from people outside of your team you'll need to start thinking about how to ask the person - how should you communicate with them? How do they like to work? Do they have certain triggers that won't get you anywhere? Likewise, if you don’t let others know how is best to work with you (or ask for favours) they are likely to get it wrong more often than get it right.

Using tools

Knowing yourself better might seem quite a simple task however it can be notoriously difficult to get right. There are a number of tools around that can help, including tests which attempt to colour code your personality, cognitive assessments of how you interact with others, and what your preferred learning style is.

Each of these have their own benefits and limitations, for example some-one might prefer to learn “by doing” – this would suit a brick-layer but would not be appropriate for a surgeon. Likewise, a trainee mechanic with a verbal preference for learning could read a manual 20 times and still be no closer to fixing your car!

Knowing yourself at work

There is a danger of using these tools to over-label yourself and others. For example, some-one identifying as an “underlying green with adaptive blue tendencies with a preference for spatial learning” is probably going to be just as difficult to work with as someone who hasn’t spent 1 moment of self-reflection.

Instead, these tools are best understood as an approach to problem solving, learning, or discovery that doesn't guarantee perfection. While not perfect, anything which can help you stop and think about yourself and how you get on with others can be useful. It could be as easy as asking yourself some simple questions:

  • What am I good at?
  • Why did I get angry?
  • Why do I get on with my best friend?
  • What bit of the job bores me?
  • What could I have done differently?

Figure out your weakness at work

Putting it into practice

Of course, it doesn’t really matter how you improve your self-awareness, the real key is using that knowledge productively. Knowing that you’re not naturally well organised is pointless, unless you do something about it. Once you have gained that insight, try and work on solutions. Rather than accepting the dis-organisation, can you team up with some-one who is good at logistics and planning?  What technology is there to help you improve?

One of the real benefits of becoming more self-aware is that once some-one knows your strengths and weaknesses, they can adapt to you (and vice-versa). Asking some-one who doesn’t have good attention for detail to proof read something for you, will lead to frustration and disappointment for both of you. If a member of your team likes structure and certainty, they won’t enjoy fluid, ad-hoc planning.

There is a gardening axiom of right plant, right place based on placing plants in conditions that suit them. For this to be successful requires knowing the conditions of your garden as well as the attributes of a particular plant.  While people are reasonably more complicated than plants, knowing the attributes of yourself as well as those of the people around you will help to place appropriate tasks and behaviours with the right people, which will encourage good, fruitful relations.

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