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Use self knowledge to direct your career

Use self knowledge to direct your career

“Never too late to learn some embarrassingly basic, stupidly obvious things about oneself.”
― Alain de Botton

If you’ve ever had a 360 review, gone through a program based on an assessment like DiSC, or even been teased at a party about a personality quirk, you know the feeling of realizing everyone else has seen one of your behaviors you’ve never really acknowledged. There are probably behaviors you exhibit that you want to brush off and some you want to keep and strengthen. Why is it so important to discover these traits and how can you put that knowledge to use?
Benefits of knowing more about your strengths, values, interest, priorities

boxer in mirror

Various assessments give you information you’ll be proud to review and find fairly easy to use. For example, I might use my knowledge of my husband’s preferred Love Languages and my own when I ask for support from him. I might use my Life Values Inventory when trying to decide if a company’s mission would be a good fit for me. Both remind me of certain basic personal needs I must meet in order to be happy.

Let’s say I take one of the Everything DiSC assessments and learn that I’m an SC. So what?

I prioritize stability, support, and accuracy. So if I want to make a job change I can seek out something that will meet those priorities, or I can decide it’s time to stretch myself. I don’t want to spend all my time out of my comfort zone, however. So I might look for opportunities to do more work that requires me to act quickly (or quickly from my perspective) and be more enthusiastic. But to make it more comfortable and increase my chances of being successful, I want to look for collaborative environments in which to practice these behaviors. Perhaps I’ll look for where I can be part of a group or team where I can fulfill my need for support and stability.

With increased self-knowledge, I can look at jobs, courses of study, volunteer opportunities, and work assignments more realistically. I can use my self-knowledge to keep myself from being misdirected by the status, recognition, pay, prestige or other measures of success that don’t match my own interests and needs. I can act from my own motivations and needs.

I can also better prepare for stressful situations. Perhaps I need to speak passionately about a cause I care deeply about. It’s not natural for an SC style to show great passion and charm. But I want others to take action because of my speech. I can acknowledge that this will be a big stretch for me and prepare by asking for help. Maybe I’ll look to someone I know is a Di to use as a model. I can prepare, delve into the i style I have within me, and practice sharing the values that resonate with me. Knowing that I might be drained by my time on stage, I can make sure I have time to recover afterwards.

With self-knowledge I can better meet the needs of others. I’ll know that while I will judge myself by how true to my values I was as I delivered my message, others will judge me by different criteria. I’ll raise more money or garner more volunteers by addressing the interests of all the other styles of people. I can introduce some form of competition to capture the attention of people with the D priority or I’ll be sure to cover expected outcomes of funding my cause for those who prioritize end results. For those with a C priority, I’ll be sure to let them know how we’ll be good stewards of their money.

When given a leadership position I can build upon my naturally humble leadership style. I might see my legacy as building a workplace that supports the needs to its employees and customers because that’s where I can see myself making a real difference. But knowing that a leader needs to be able to use multiple styles, I might ask for a coach to help me with making bold statements, acting on innovative ideas, responding to market disruptions, or other actions that might be hard for me. I might make sure to regularly ask colleagues if they feel I’ve been too reluctant to challenge the status quo or make big changes. With self-knowledge I know where my blind spots tend to be and can take steps to make sure I get help holding up a mirror to those spots.

Putting your knowledge about yourself and others to work

Build relationships

Career consultants tell you to network, and then network some more. Self-knowledge will help you with these initial meetings where you’re expected to say something meaningful about yourself. It also helps you move to stronger relationships like the ones you need for good teamwork. For example, do you need to work at showing more warmth or do you need to tone down your competitiveness in certain situations? Can you tell when you’ve been off-putting to someone? Once you know where you need help, you can search out tips, try techniques, attend a training, or do whatever you need to address your deficits.

“Self-knowledge is better than self-control any day,” Raquel said firmly. “And I know myself well enough to know how I act around cookies.”
― Claudia Gray, Evernight

Better understand motivation and conflict

Do you know what motivates you? Are you assuming that the same will motivate those you manage? Think again. You can use your self-knowledge in negotiations to get what you really want, but you can’t use it to make assumptions about others. Knowing about other styles will give you a starting point for discovering what does motivate your staff, your co-workers, your family members.

Do you know how to respond to conflict? With greater self-knowledge comes better self-regulation. You can move yourself from unproductive to more healthy behaviors. You can make sure that you speak from your own values and priorities, acknowledging that others might not share these. You can better accept a harsh word as being directed towards an idea or position you hold, not as directed at you personally.

Returning to the DiSC SC style example, you know that you love working with groups, but others have a need for more independence. Your challenge isn’t to convince your colleague that the group will be supportive, but rather that it will achieve results or provide opportunities for individual work that’s brought back to the group. It’s very possible that like others with your style, you might retreat from conflict so you know that you need to be aware of that and be willing to manage emotional tension in order to present your side.

Avoid a hiring or team formation bias

It’s a human desire to be around people like you. People tend to hire in their own image even if that’s not what the organization needs. Knowing more about yourself will make it easier to spot your own tendencies to rank candidates with your own preferences higher. You can instead look for people who offer complementary or missing skills and talents to hire or place on a team. You can be more objective.

“It is a sad fate for a man to die too well known to everybody else, and still unknown to himself.”
― Francis Bacon

Improve your leadership

As leaders move up in an organization they become more likely to overrate themselves and to develop blind spots, according to a study by Hay Groups, using the Emotional Intelligence Inventory. Obviously this can hinder their effectiveness as leaders. Honest feedback becomes harder to receive as you gain more power and influence, even as its even more necessary for your own growth. It might even be true that the strengths that landed you a promotion will work towards your detriment in a new environment or new role. For example, having been rewarded for being the person with the most technical knowledge might make it difficult to now delegate all technical issues to someone else and pay more attention to softer issues.

The 360 review was created as a way of gaining a complete look at your performance. You can identify common problems such as under-communication, not seeking out new opportunities, or ignoring poor performance and discover behaviors of which you should be proud.

Another great way of learning more about your challenges and effectively practicing new behaviors is to work with a peer mentor or coach. Identifying and changing habits can be hard work and it helps to have someone there on your side to be supportive and to challenge you. Peer mentors can be good at pointing out resources available to you that you might not know about or to give you examples of behaviors, resources, techniques that have worked for them. Coaches can take you to a more personal level of insight and work.

Stretch yourself

“Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them.”
― Albert Einstein

I’ve never seen anyone receive the results of a personality assessment with disinterest. We’re all curious about ourselves and how we’re perceived. We’re all looking for explanations about why we act the way we do and why some changes are harder to make than others. We enjoy discovering new positive ways of viewing ourselves.

The challenge comes in confronting where we tend to stumble and where we have difficulties. But for most of us, even confronting these challenges can be rewarding. The responses from others who notice a positive change or who behave differently in response to our changes are motivating. It’s not often, however, that others will let us know they noticed a change. That’s another reason why a coach or mentor can be motivating. They have permission to take notice, provide additional encouragement, and offer praise. They can see career and learning opportunities you’re talented and skilled enough to take — even if you don’t quite feel ready yet.

Invest in yourself. Take charge of your own career.

 

By Kristeen Bullwinkle
Originally published on TalentGear.com.

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