5 ways to boost your Awareness

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Awareness is one of four critical elements for leadership success (passion, accountability, awareness, agility). Most of us do not like to suffer, yet not all of us have developed a keen ability to pay attention to signs, signals and senses that indicate that pain or stress is likely. Whether it is our own self-awareness that is lacking or an alertness to external factors, we need to boost our radar-power if we are to enhance our decision-making success.

We make the best decisions when exercising constructive caution, considering risk and being respectful about our well-being. For example, someone who exercises respect for traffic laws is unlikely to run a red light, thereby significantly reducing the chances of incurring pain & stress from a car accident. Awareness-power gives us a sophistication for decision making, for identifying problems before they arise and taking action steps to avoid the problem. This is a skill that fosters confidence; confidence in ourselves to take necessary action and confidence from others that we are taking considered decisions; decisions that they can trust. This is not over-confidence borne of reckless bravado, but instead is a skilful ability to spot the signs, process risk and take appropriate forward-action.

Despite the importance of awareness, our studies suggest that this is a skill that is in increasingly short supply. We measure awareness via our Quality of Motivation Questionnaire with average scores generally much lower than even 10 years ago. This would suggest that people's ability to foresee problems is limited. Why might this be? It's speculation, but the trend for "helicopter parenting" - hovering over our children, poised to jump in and solve their problems for them - has impacted negatively on skilful awareness. Parents deciding which teams their children should join, doing homework for them, getting their kit prepared, clearing up afterwards, driving them door to door, perhaps even bailing them out of financial difficulty; parents and others are being the radar for younger people and limiting the development of their awareness skills.

Here are five things that you can do to boost your awareness skill:

1) Regularly invite feedback. This will help to increase your self-awareness, helping you to recognise the signals for when you are "in the zone" (great!) as well as behaviour that holds you back. Before a meeting, let a colleague know that you will be asking them to give you feedback on your performance. Explore opportunities to participate in a 360 review process. Ask your friends when they've enjoyed your input and give them permission to let you know when you're not being quite so helpful. Feedback is the food of champions!

2) Expand your curiosity. Read journals, blogs, newspapers, books that are relevant and help you to identify and articulate factors that could create opportunity. In a rushed world, what were once standard disciplines of reading the papers, researching the latest news and gathering facts are no longer so common. A GWI survey last year showed that people spend almost 2 hours per day on average on social media. Make sure that a significant amount of this time is used for reading relevant material. Go to the conference, book a course, pay attention to relevant news.

3) Grow your network. Connecting with a wider range of informed people both within and outside your organisation will help you to grow your sensitivity and awareness to issues before they become a problem. Make quality one to one time with your senior reports and listen to them objectively. Attend the staff social functions. Join an interest group of peers in your field. Meet some of them for lunch. Ask questions, share ideas, build a bigger picture.

4) Find a mentor. Someone who has 'been there' before can help you to spot the issues, signals and signs that you might not yet be able to see. A good mentor will have experience that you don't yet have, will enable you to identify your own solutions rather than fixing the problem for you. Who can you connect with, today?

5) Reflect on your confidence. Are you taking forward-action because you've paid due attention to the signals or because you are being reckless? One strong sign that recklessness - overconfidence - is at play is whether you think you're smarter than everyone else in the room, or far more able to manage the pain or stress of the problem than 'most' people. If this is the case, fearlessness is counterproductive and will create more problems. Consider the athlete with a painful injury that rejects using a knee-strap because "I don't need that support". In truth, they don't want to be seen as weak, but by not using appropriate support they are at far greater risk of serious long term damage. Are you adopting a similar thought process in your business, rejecting appropriate support or data because you think you are somehow more 'super' than the average human being?

To be an excellent troubleshooter, delivering sophisticated solutions and considered decisions, we need the insight that the awareness-skill brings. The mix of great intuition and proper analysis provides the basis for brilliant decisions.

What will you do today to boost your awareness?