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Building your awareness muscle

I was reading an article in HBR this week entitled “What makes a good leader”. It was written in 2004 but still stands good.

https://hbr.org/2004/01/what-makes-a-leader


The thrust of the piece is that leaders need EQ as well as IQ. The writer (Daniel Goleman of Emotional Intelligence renown) goes on to break EQ down into five component parts the first of which (and the focus of this article) is self-awareness.


A few years ago, I was delivering a Leadership Programme in a large corporate to a group of senior managers. The programme naturally touched on emotions, and each time emotions were mentioned, one particular manager stated that there was no room for emotions in his team – he led a team of engineers who had no time for that sort of thing. I found time during a quiet moment to challenge him on his thinking and to his credit, he was open to challenge – and after a series of conversations he was able to find a different (and more constructive) perspective on this.


“No room for emotions in my team”


This story has stayed with me for years and here’s why: the manager in question found it hard to be with difficult emotions and so rather than doing something about it, he made emotion an object of fun in the hopes that this would dissuade any of his team from bringing emotion to work. This all came out after a couple of coaching conversations where we worked through what was really happening. His inability to reflect and see what was happening inside prevented him from connecting with his team who did, as it transpired, have emotions.


And so this brings me back to awareness. It’s such an important muscle to build as it offers you choice. In the case above, the manager eventually chose to do something about the situation. But only after years of ignoring it. Had he built his awareness muscle, he could have caught this earlier and chosen to do something. Or chosen to do nothing. The important thing is that he would have had choice.


In coaching, one of the major (and often unsung) benefits is that you get to develop your awareness muscle. In my coaching with clients it’s true that we look at challenges that the client is facing – but the value comes not only in finding a way through the challenge, but more in knowing yourself better – knowing your values, your drivers, your fears – all the things that impact your actions and thinking every day; and with awareness you get the power to choose.


It’s my belief that the other qualities of EQ stem from the core competency of awareness: awareness of the self, and awareness of what’s going on around you. I work with a coach on my own development and feel the joys and benefits of awareness every day whether through being in the moment or taking a choice in what I want to or don’t want to do. If you’d like to know how awareness could change your life (and I believe it can), then get in touch to arrange a free coaching session.





Bruce O’Brien is a leadership development consultant and professional Co-Active© coach.

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