Every single decision you make as a leader, be it tedious and small or large and complex, impacts your customers, staff, and culture. Since each decision matters, it’s important to pause and think about the impact your decision or action will have on yourself and others. Weigh the potential consequences of each decision, including positive or negative outcomes that may occur immediately or in the future. Taking time to pause and think can help you make stronger, more informed decisions. An important part of this process is becoming more self-aware and other-aware.
Self and other awareness is a quality that strong leaders and entrepreneurs possess. These individuals often have a better grasp of their strengths and weaknesses, which allows them to make more appropriate decisions even in a stressful moment.
The Physical Affect
Being self and other aware also includes our physical state. Adrenaline is known to impact our reactions and decision making. Adrenaline is usually released at the onset of a stressful situation and is a normal human response—the fight or flight response—that often leaves us with feelings of anxiety and urgency. Adrenaline can affect some leaders negatively in terms of the way they react. One important way to minimize this potentially negative effect of adrenaline is to develop self and other awareness.
Background of Emotional Intelligence(EI)
A good way to increase your level of awareness is to increase your Emotional Intelligence (EI). Having a strong EI helps you to better perceive, control, and manage your emotions. According to Daniel Goldman’s work in EI, it starts with self-awareness but also includes social awareness, being other aware. With that self-awareness, a leader can manage his/her behavior differently in order to get better results. Goldman also purports that if one is not self-aware, the odds are that he/she isn’t likely to be socially aware.
Developing Your Emotional Intelligence
- Recognize your feelings as real and valid.
Feelings just are. It is necessary to think about why you are feeling this way and if you’ve experienced a similar feeling in the past. Often our body will give us physical clues as to our emotions such as a knot in our stomach. You can also ask yourself how you are and if you don’t quite know how you are feeling, it’s okay to ask someone else to help you pinpoint your emotions. Writing down your thoughts and feelings is also an important step to enhancing your EI. Doing so allows you to look back and reflect on pasts thoughts and decisions later. However, don’t dwell on your emotions, especially negative ones. Look at them, recognize them, but know when to move on.
One client I coach, let’s call him Bob, found that when certain topics were going to be discussed during a staff meeting, Bob felt stressed and tended to respond to ways that were counterproductive. Bob started journaling when he felt stressed and asked himself the question, “Why am I feeling this way?” Bob came to realize that he feared a certain outcome. With that awareness, we were able to explore these feelings and identify the actions he could take. As a result, he felt much less stress and was able to engage in discussions more productively.
- Take personality/behavioral assessments.
DiSC is an example of such an assessment. In fact, we have seen a significant positive impact on individuals and teams as they gain important insights into their personality and blind spots.
- Watch yourself, your patterns, and your actions and learning from them is a long process, but an effective one.
A sort of feedback analysis is created when you take note of all major decisions and the predicted outcomes and check back several months later. Doing so will allow you to see how the real outcome differed from the intended or predicted outcome and gives you insight for future decisions.
- Be aware of others and how your decisions and actions impact them or how they can contribute to your decision making.
As a leader you are not alone, you have a staff comprised of different people from different backgrounds who have different personalities and can offer you a broader insight into the impact your actions make. You might ask them directly or use a 360-feedback process to gain a perspective of how others see and/or experience you. Being self-aware is a continuous loop of knowing, improving, and complimenting yourself. It’s what I call managing the gap—the gap between how you see yourself and how others see you. Over time, you will refine and improve your actions and reactions. If you don’t love what or how you do something, then change it.
All of these steps discussed above will help you to enhance your EI, increasing self and other awareness, and in turn, assist you in making a better decision. I have had this “think before you act” conversation with our young adult children. While I’m not entirely sure they’ve learned this lesson; they say they plan to engrave “Think Before You Act” on my gravestone.
For the Faith-Based:
Our actions are usually a reflection of who we are. As Christians, we are called to live lives that are “holy and pleasing to God” (Romans 12:1). Our actions that glorify God “bear much fruit” (John 15:8). This is why we should think carefully before we take action.
It is important that we control our words, temper, and reaction so that the enemy can’t manipulate his way into our lives and situations. Proverbs 29:11 says, “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.” The way you talk to and about people reflects you and your relationship with God. In fact, how we treat others is how we show those around us that we are God’s disciples. If we are carefully thinking about how we act, we will enjoy true peace of mind, knowing that we have not offended others by being careless or by making inappropriate remarks.
When we are called to “be imitators of God”, we have huge shoes to fill. Therefore, we should ask God daily for the wisdom to do the things that are pleasing to him. As a leader, people are watching you; they are observing your walk and how you handle various situations, so show them the God that’s in you. Honor God with your actions. This is why it is vital for a Christian in a work environment to think before taking action.