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  • Writer's pictureChuck Cusumano

Self-Awareness: Do You Have It?

By Chuck Cusumano and Jillian Broaddus

We have been on a journey since December describing Emotional Intelligence and teasing you about our upcoming EI assessment tool we are developing. So, by now you may be familiar with the terms EQ & EI. (To be clear, they are not the same and are not interchangeable.)


EI: A person’s ability to perceive, utilize, understand, and manage emotions.

EQ: The measurement of how a person puts their EI to use.


There are several different models in use for defining EI; however, we believe the most useful comprises the 4 main domains that encompass the 12 EI competencies. Here is a chart from HBR showing the interrelationship of the competencies.

Tasha Eurich wrote in Harvard Business Journal, “Research suggests that when we see ourselves clearly, we are more confident and more creative. We make sounder decisions, build stronger relationships, and communicate more effectively. We’re less likely to lie, cheat, and steal. We are better workers who get more promotions. And we’re more effective leaders with more satisfied employees and more profitable companies.”


Who would not want to see themselves as they are if all those descriptions were true about us? Well, it seems that most of us believe we see ourselves as others see us, but the research tells a different story! Eurich’s research found that even though most people believe they are self-aware, only 10%-15% of the people studied actually fit the criteria of being so!


Truth be told: we are not good judges of what others truly think of us and are delusional about how we ‘show-up’ to our teams and those around us. Research also revealed that the more power and experience a person has, the less self-aware they become, overestimating the value of their experiences.


When you think about it, it makes sense. The higher you go in an organization or a group, the less people you have above you and thus the less feedback you have on your performance. The more positional authority you possess, the less likely you are to get honest feedback from those around you.  Too many leaders or individuals with power or popularity end up living in an echo chamber. They are surrounded by others who tell them what they believe they want to hear. It is akin to a digital media algorithm – the more you search and read about a topic, the more your social media or news feed gives you only that search result. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy!  


Not only do you start to believe what is said to you, but you also become resistant to feedback that does not match what you have been hearing. In psychological terminology, you are suffering from confirmation bias on yourself. And if you have enough power, money, influence, or popularity, there will always be enough people around you to tell you what they believe you want to hear.


How do you become more self-aware? Here are a few ideas to help grow your self-awareness and effectively increase your Emotional Intelligence:


  1. Actively seek out feedback from a wide range of people.

  2. Encourage others to speak or list areas in which you could improve. (You may have to push hard to elicit what others may perceive as negative feedback.)

  3. Ask not just for feedback, but for examples of what you have done or said to lead to this feedback.

  4. Adopt the mindset of "what," not "why." We may never know the why of what someone is thinking; however, we can learn from the what! What can I do differently, so I show up differently?

  5. Ask yourself, “When I get what I think is criticism, do I immediately jump into defense mode and try to explain my actions, or do I try to ascertain what caused this perception of me and is it what I want others to believe about me?” Many times, we are too quick to jump in and defend our position or actions, but the real learning is not to justify what we did or said, but to truly understand what it was that triggered the other person to conclude what they did. The better response would be not to defend, but to seek understanding of what it is that I could have done differently for them to perceive me differently.

  6. Participate in a 360 evaluation. Formally, if possible, but you can do an informal 360 with your friends, family, co-workers, and past workers. Just ask all of them to describe both strength and weakness that you possess. Then compare all the words and group them to see the similarities. You will get a pretty good cross-section of how you show up in different areas of your life and leadership. And do not forget to list your 5 strengths and weaknesses before you get theirs. You may be surprised how you see yourself verses how others perceive you!


“We are all mirrors to others, and our every action or inaction, every word or silence, is a reflection of our innermost thoughts and feelings. But the mirror is only as clear as the mind is open. Often what we see in ourselves is not what others see in us. The image we project may be distorted by our fears, insecurities, and biases. It is only by acknowledging this distortion that we can begin to see both ourselves and others more clearly.”  - C. Joy Bell


If you want help seeing yourself or your organization more clearly or you would like to know more about how a 360 assessment can transform your organization, reach out to us at We are rather good at removing the distortions in the mirror and showing you what is there – not what you want to be there.

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