Self awareness is only half the battle

Recently, I completed a refresher course on DiSC. DiSC is a popular behavioral self-assessment tool used to understand and measure individual behavioral types. I was first exposed to DiSC through a University course on organizational behavior and found it to be eye opening at the time. After completing a short survey, the software was able to generate a report with many reasonably accurate descriptors of my personality and tendencies. While the insights are far from perfect, it was and is a fascinating way to enhance one’s self awareness. Interestingly, the report I recently received is nearly identical to the first one I received almost 15 years ago; a testament to the idea that your personality and innate tendencies do not materially change over time.

I believe a major component of professional development centers around a heightened degree of self awareness. Emotional Intelligence is defined as the ability to manage both your own emotions and understand the emotions of people around you… and unlike your personality, is an influenceable skill that can be learned, practiced, and improved upon over time. By better knowing yourself and how you react to various social situations, you’re better able to consciously manage your actions and emotions.

There are all kinds of tools and courses designed to help enhance your self awareness, including popular ones like the aforementioned DiSC, as well as others such as Predictive Analytics or Myers-Briggs. While each tool has its own pros and cons, the fundamental theme is consistent: by better understanding yourself and your leadership style or innate personality traits, you are more likely to be an effective professional.

Too often, I have seen folks undertake the self-learning process without translating it into behavior change. Better knowing yourself and how you work is great but if you don’t actually modify any behavior with your new-found knowledge, you won’t reap the rewards. And translating self awareness into action is the more challenging part of the professional development journey because it requires actual behavior changes in addition to knowledge alone. Like any learned skill, behavior change take practice and repetition to master.

While it’s worth celebrating the act of undergoing these forms of training, it’s more important to focus on the actionable changes that heightened self-awareness unlocks.