Improving your internal and external self-awareness is the real secret to success for product managers
This may just be the most important interview yet. While it does not directly deal with product management concepts, it does deal with success concepts. The upcoming discussion is about a book The Muse called the number-one best career book available. The book is Insight: Why We’re Not as Self-Aware as We Think, and How Seeing Ourselves Clearly Helps Us Succeed at Work and in Life.
I discussed the key concepts of being more self-aware with Insight author, Dr. Tasha Eurich. Tasha is an organizational psychologist, researcher, and New York Times best-selling author. She has helped thousands of leaders and teams improve their effectiveness through greater self-awareness. In the interview she shares two categories of self-awareness and how we can be more self-aware.
It’s an important topic because greater self-awareness means greater success. I’m certain you will find this to be a very important discussion.
Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers
- [4:48] What is self-awareness? It’s actually challenging to answer because the term is defined differently by people and in literature. We reviewed over 800 studies to create a description of self-awareness. It involves two main categories: internal and external.
- Internal self-awareness. This is our understanding of who we are, what makes us tick, what we want to accomplish, what we are passionate about – our internal reflections and insights about ourselves.
- External self-awareness. This is our understanding of how other people see us. It is also independent of internal self-awareness, so someone may have high internal self-awareness but low external self-awareness, which means they are unaware how others view them. The opposite may also be true. The real power comes from building your internal and external self-awareness.
- [8:14] How does increasing our self-awareness help us in our careers? Self-awareness is the meta-skill of the 21st Century. At a basic level, people who are more self-aware are better performers at work, better collaborators and communicators, get more promotions, and are better leaders. There is also evidence that shows more self-aware leaders lead more profitable companies. The reason it is the meta-skill is our level of self-awareness sets the limit for how effective we are in all of the capabilities we need to be successful in organizations. It opens our potential for performance and meaning in what we do. Further, it not only influences our career success but all aspects of our lives.
- [10:50] Why do we have blind spots and are not more self-aware? 95% of people think they are self-aware but only 10-15% actually are. The good news is that anyone can improve their self-awareness. There are two groups of factors why we are not more self-aware. First, humans have a unconscious part of our nature that makes it not possible to always be objectively aware of our thoughts, behaviors, and feelings. At any given moment a person is processing 11 million pieces of information, which means much of it is unconscious. Second, culture is pushing people to become more self-absorbed and less self-aware. I call it the cult of self and it is most easily observed in social media. The opposite of self-awareness is self-absorption. It requires conscious effort and work to minimize the impact of these factors that lead to blind spots.
- [19:25] What can we do to be more externally self-aware? Start with the right mindset. You have to step back and acknowledge that other people can see you more objectively than you see yourself. This means a simple way to be more self-aware is to get more feedback. One tool for feedback is called the dinner of truth. Invite someone who knows you well and that you trust to be honest with you and invite them to dinner. At dinner you ask them “what do I do that is most annoying to you?” Then you be quiet and listen. You will most likely end dinner with deeper insights about yourself and a closer relationship with the person.
- [22:22] How do we start thinking about feedback in a positive way? In our research we found very self-aware people that didn’t start that way – people we called Unicorns. We asked what did they do differently than other people. We expected that they embraced feedback and loved it. Instead, we learned that they hated hearing feedback. It requires courage to hear that you are not perfect and have areas needing improvement. However, what made them Unicorns is that they pushed through fear, knowing that the insights gained from feedback made them more self-aware.
- [24:48] What can we do to be more internally self-aware? One of the surprising findings is that deep psychological examination does not increase internal self-awareness. As an example, a person didn’t get a promotion they were expecting. The common response is for the person to ask themselves “why” they didn’t get the promotion. That “why” question does not give us helpful insights. “Why” is the wrong question. Instead, we need to ask “what.” “Why” questions create hopelessness while “what” questions are more likely to move us forward and create action. The Unicorns ask future-focused questions, such as “what do I need to do to get the next promotion.” For more internal self-awareness, ask yourself “what” and not “why” questions.
- Tasha’s book, Insight: Why We’re Not as Self-Aware as We Think, and How Seeing Ourselves Clearly Helps Us Succeed at Work and in Life. Named the #1 Best Career Book by The Muse.
- Get the quiz to assess your self-awareness.
“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it; Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.” –Goethe
Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.