Are you as good as you think you are? How a lack of self-awareness can limit professional success

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Many companies' training or development programs include some sort of self-assessment designed to increase self-awareness, but in practice self-evaluations typically have a very low correlation to objective assessments, especially for work-related skills, according to the Harvard Business Review.

As defined by HBR, self-awareness is "understanding who we are and how we are similar to or different from others." A main component of self-awareness is self-knowledge — how we understand our own various personality traits, values, attitudes and behaviors. Another aspect of self-awareness is an accurate understanding of how consistent — or inconsistent — our self-view is compared to how others perceive us or against objective data.

Without external data to confirm self-reported evaluations, self-awareness assessments may reinforce peoples' inaccurate perceptions of themselves, which can be harmful to development, performance and the effectiveness of team work, according to HBR.

In a recent study that analyzed data from an executive development program at a Fortune 10 company, researchers tested the extent to which accurate self-awareness was related to team effectiveness and coordination across numerous business metrics, including market share, ROA, customer awareness, productivity and others.

According to BHR, the study found that when individuals had low self-awareness, teams suffered significantly, and were more likely to make worse decisions, engage less in coordination and show less conflict management. When team members overrated their level of self-awareness, chances of a team success were cut in half.

Individuals with high self-awareness are 36 percent more likely to make better quality decisions than those with low self-awareness, 46 percent more likely to successfully coordinate with teams and 30 percent more likely to successfully manage conflict.

To help build self-awareness, consider these three tactics from HBR.

1. Use evidence-based self-awareness tools. Many popular developmental self-knowledge assessments lack evidence connecting their results to actual job performance or learning, according to the report. Effective self-awareness assessment tools capture and deliver results that can make valuable predictions relating outcomes and performance. Additionally, it can be helpful to use external benchmarks as a point of comparison to measure how an individual's self-view matches up to others' perceptions of them.

2. Make feedback relevant to employees. According to the report, individuals are more motivated to learn and apply new skills to their roles when they understand learning as something that is valuable to their careers. Communicating how and why specific capabilities employees receive feedback on are relevant to their job success could help motivate them to continue developing.

3. Encourage employees to build off of their self-awareness. Personal development is more than acquiring a sense of self-awareness — it is the ability to take action. Therefore, it is important to include self-development skills in development programs so employees know how to identify and address areas and skills in need of improvement.

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