Self Awareness ≠ Self Management


Years ago, I described myself as alarmingly self-aware. I was pretty pleased that I easily recognized and understood my emotions, and knew my triggers, motivations and what drives me. This extended to pretty solid intuition and ability to read others. Not perfect, but pretty good. I congratulated myself for my level of emotional intelligence. After all, self awareness is the foundation of all emotional intelligence.


Then one day I was gobsmacked by the realization that I didn’t use that self knowledge to guide my behavior in different situations. It finally occurred to me that self awareness does not equal self management.

"Our researcher can find that book. What did it smell like?"

Self awareness is the foundational building block of emotional and social competence. Yet it alone is not enough to successfully navigate the complex world of leading and working with others. Ultimately, recognizing your own internal composition without modifying your behavior to match the environment you operate in will stymie progress, lead to avoidable conflict and potentially lasting damage or complete failure. Being aware that you are both clumsy and can’t fly without stepping back from a steep ledge, could easily land you splat on the ground below.


Perhaps more relevant examples:


Self Awareness: Ben is a straight-shooter and proudly calls it like he sees it. He says, “I’m a no BS kind of guy. Some people can’t handle my direct way, and well…I am what I am. We just won’t get along.”


Self Awareness + Self Management: George is an extreme extrovert and loves commanding attention and blurting out his (usually) good ideas in meetings. Knowing that he is a big personality, he has developed the ability to temper his exuberance, pay attention to the amount of airtime he is taking, and draw out others to share their thoughts and opinions. “My colleagues are brilliant. Their talents and perspectives are different from mine, I’d be an idiot to steamroll over them.”


Self Awareness: When someone raises their voice and seems angry when talking to her or disagreeing with her, Kendra knows she has a tendency to shut down and just want to get out of the conversation. + Self Management: She has learned to not let her reaction show on her face, to take a deep breath, remind herself she is not responsible for the other person’s reaction, and get curious about the situation.


A practice to help build both self awareness and self management is Pause. Notice. Name.


Pause. When you are having an interaction that isn’t going quite the way you’d like, deliberately pause and take a slow deep breath. Inhale and exhale slowly. No need to exaggerate it, you can do this quietly.


Notice. Notice how you are holding yourself. Where is there any tightness in your body? What sensations do you feel? How are you experiencing the other person? What do you observe about them? What are you reacting to?


Name. Name the feelings, observations and reactions either to yourself, or share out loud with the other person.


Practicing Pause. Notice. Name. helps you develop your awareness of yourself, and yourself in relationship to others. Deliberately slowing down the action, taking the time to observe the many inputs to your experience, and finally attaching a name to that experience sets you up to choose what you do next. That’s self awareness + self management.


And here we are.

America Divided

With yesterday’s election results, many of us believe our world has irrevocably changed, and that going forward much will be different—but we do not know how. It is very similar to the feeling many of us had on 9/11. I remember looking at children on the street and feeing sad for the world they would grow up in, one very different from the world I had grown up in. (Fortunately today this is not due to an attack on American soil that cost us over 3,000 lives.)  A conservative friend of mine reported that he had this feeling eight years ago, certain that our democracy was on the verge of collapse with Obama’s election.


But here we are. Filmmaker/Author/Influencer Michael Moore chastised us yesterday:

Everyone must stop saying they are “stunned” and “shocked.” What you mean to say is that you were in a bubble and weren’t paying attention to your fellow Americans and their despair. YEARS of being neglected by both parties, the anger and the need for revenge against the system only grew. Along came a TV star they liked whose plan was to destroy both parties and tell them all “You’re fired!” Michael Moore: Morning-After To-Do List, AlterNet, November 9, 2016

This coming after he predicted Trump’s win back in July:

Well, folks, this isn’t an accident. It is happening. And if you believe Hillary Clinton is going to beat Trump with facts and smarts and logic, then you obviously missed the past year of 56 primaries and caucuses where 16 Republican candidates tried that and every kitchen sink they could throw at Trump and nothing could stop his juggernaut. Michael Moore, 5 Reasons Why Trump Will Win

We are here because our citizens chose a leader many of us revile–as part of our democratic process.  So now somewhere around 50% of our country is in mourning. The other 50% is celebrating. And not all of them are white supremacist, sexist, nationalistic pigs:

For every single American who voted for Hillary yesterday and who watched last night’s events unfold in horror, there’s another American out there who rejoiced. It’s a 1-to-1 ratio…Over 50 million people—people with kids and parents and jobs and dogs and calendars on their wall with piano lessons and doctors appointments and birthday parties written in the squares. Full, three-dimensional people who voted for what they hope will be a better future for themselves and their family. Tim Urban, It’s Going to Be OK, Wait But Why

And so I hope that these full, three-dimensional people have seen something possible that I cannot see. As someone deeply invested in leadership and what makes a leader, I have trouble seeing past the messages from our president elect that are not ones we want our children to hear, absorb and model.  I strongly believe no leader of any kind should spread a message or encourage others to intimidate, incite and disrespect others. 


Collectively we have an opportunity–as a kind of leadership foot soldiers–to help our children and those we work with know there is a different way. We can help them draw on the lessons of how we got here and help make meaning to help us get to a better place tomorrow.  

On Leadership: Colin Powell Trust

In this short video clip Colin Powell is asked: “How would you define the key characteristics of effective leadership that allow you to go and be an advocate for good?”


Powell answers: “Trust.”  He goes on to say “Leadership ultimately comes down to creating conditions of trust within an organization,” and quoting an instructor he had in his time as a cadet “you’ll know you’re a good leader when people follow you if only out of curiosity.”


(Thanks to Taylor Fernley for sharing).