How to improve self-awareness and be more successful — with personality

Self-awareness is associated with success in both the workplace and in our relationships.

For example, poor performing public organizations (according to rate of return) also have employees who are low on self-awareness. Specifically, Korn Ferry found that,

"Poor-performing companies' employees were 79 percent more likely to have low overall self-awareness than those at firms with robust ROR."

Additionally, research reported by Tasha Eurich suggests that very few of us are actually highly self-aware. This is particularly true for leaders and managers with lots of experience. To understand why this is the case it is important to understand what self-awareness really is.

What is self-awareness?

Eurich suggests that there are two types of self-awareness and that both are necessary for individuals to be fully self-aware. The first, internal self-awareness, concerns how well we know and understand ourselves, from our passions and values to our likely situational reactions and their impact on those around us. The second, external self-awareness, concerns how well we understand how others view us and our actions. True self-awareness, Eurich says, involves balancing these two aspects.

Leaders and those with a great deal of experience often suffer from overconfidence and are therefore less likely to continue developing their skills or seek external feedback. The problem then is that the better a person gets at their job, the less likely they are to stay self-aware and the greater the risk of a lower rate of return for the company.

What then, can people do to avoid falling into this trap and improve their self-awareness at any stage of their career? I suggest that an in-depth understanding of personality is a good place to start.

How is your personality involved?

Personality can be described as the patterns of thoughts and feelings that shape our behaviors. There are many personality frameworks available, but when looking to improve self-awareness Deirdorff and Rubin state that it is important to use tools that encourage self-development and are directly related to work performance.

The five-factor model is the most widely accepted framework of personality and is predictive of job performance across many industries. The five factors of personality encompassed in this model are: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Emotional Stability. Below the video and text explain them further.

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Openness reflects the extent to which one seeks out new opportunities, experiences, and ways of solving problems versus sticking to familiar experiences and methods that have stood the test of time.

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Conscientiousness relays the extent to which one has a focused, orderly achievement-oriented approach to the world versus a more flexible, relaxed approach.

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Extraversion reflects the extent to which one approaches others in an energetic, enthusiastic way, doing more speaking and less listening versus a more subtle approach that emphasizes a balance between alone time and group time, and an emphasis on listening over speaking.

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Agreeableness, often referred to as the altruism dimension, concerns how likely one is to take other people at their word and put others' needs before their own versus being more guarded and questioning of others' motives.

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Emotional stability reflects the extent to which one is ruffled by stressful situations and frequently changes one's mind due to feedback from others versus remaining unmoved by the comments of others and maintaining calm in stressful situations.

Knowing where one falls on each of these five dimensions and understanding what that means in terms of likely behaviors and the ways those behaviors may be perceived by others is a great first step towards self-awareness. However, that still is only part of the puzzle.

How can you make self-awareness work at work?

To achieve true self-awareness, it is important to think about how this information can be used for self-development. In other words, we want people to be thinking about what they can do in the future to improve the way they work. How do they approach new work, communicate with others, succeed on and with a team, deal with stress, and build healthy work habits that pave the way for success? A helpful conceptual framework for thinking about this is the Johari window (shown below), a convenient two by two grid that illustrates where we might have gaps in self-awareness.

Johari window

In the previously mentioned research from Korn Ferry, they found that successful organizations have a smaller number of employees with blind spots (areas where other people see them differently from the way they see themselves). Understanding these blind spots, as well as the hidden areas (things people know about themselves but don't show to others), is a great first step on the path to increased self-awareness.

With this in mind, we created Traitify Engage. The Engage output was intentionally designed to improve self-awareness and promote self-development. After taking our 90-second five factor model assessment, you get a thorough yet digestible summary of your personality, including strengths, areas for potential growth, and well-suited work environments. This output can help identify potential blind spots and hidden areas. The sections that follow provide customized tips and short exercises for developing skills such as effective teamwork, communicating with others, and dealing with stressful situations.

This tool was created to help individuals improve their internal self-awareness and develop their skills on the job. The human insight platform provides a framework for opening discussions with co-workers and managers around areas for growth and change, which in turn lead to more feedback, greater self-awareness, and ultimately a more successful organization!


If you'd like to become more successful by increasing your self-awareness, try Traitify.