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Episode 1 - Self Awareness

In the first of our new podcasts on how to give your legal career the best start, we look at Self Awareness - what it means, and why it's important.

Episode One: Self Awareness - transcript

Hi and welcome to the TLT Unpacked Podcast series. On this podcast, we’re going to look at self-awareness and why it’s so important for your career. 

My name is Susie. I work closely with TLT as an expert trainer. I’ve delivered training in Africa, Asia, the Americas and, Europe, and I’ve worked with everyone from graduates to executives, helping them to unlock their potential. On this episode, I’m going to talk through what self-awareness really is and why it’s important in turning ambitions into achievements, especially here at TLT. I’m also going to share with you a practical tip which we’ll test out together live. It will help to improve your self-awareness. So, do please be honest with yourself when we do this. It’s just you listening.

So, what is self-awareness and why do employers look for it? Self-awareness is having a 360º view of your strengths and weaknesses and also how to flex them in the workplace. Importantly, nearly 80% of leaders have blind spots in their understanding, but the best leaders develop their self-awareness and understand themselves completely. Becoming more self-aware allows you to flex your strengths and work with more people, and who doesn’t want that? Self-awareness enables you to continuously develop yourself. The benefits are a no-brainer, but why specifically here at TLT? As a trainee, you’ll be working through different rotations between teams, and you’ll constantly meet new people. On each rotation, known as a seat, you’ll meet people with different strengths, so understanding your own style, strengths and risks will help you to adapt and flex to other people.

Let’s imagine that you’re on X Factor. You’ve taken to the stage and you’ve belted out a big number. You’ve practiced in your bedroom. You’re absolutely sure this is a great song and you’re a fantastic singer. Then the judges start to share their thoughts. It’s not good and you are completely shocked. It’s possible that you may not be a self-aware person. Why? Because there are two types of knowledge at play here. The first one is self-knowledge. This is how we see ourselves and our own strengths and qualities. Then there’s other knowledge, and that’s the understanding that comes when you listen to other people’s feedback, in this case, from the judges. Does it align to your own understanding of yourself? It’s being aware of how consistent or inconsistent our self-knowledge is compared to how others see us. Self-knowledge comes as we grow and progress, and we think about our own strengths and weaknesses.

Other knowledge, however, is much more challenging. It’s something that we need to seek out from others. It’s essential in transforming our self-knowledge from introspection into understanding much more about ourselves. Erich Dierdorff and Robert Rubin from the DePaul University collected data from an executive development programme. They tested 300 leaders in a competitive simulation to test if accurate self-awareness was in any way linked to team effectiveness. What they found was that when individuals were less self-aware, the team substantially suffered. In fact, teams with less self-aware leaders made worse decisions, engaging in less coordination, and showing even less conflict management. This is due to a disconnect between the self-knowledge and other knowledge.
Another thing that you need to be aware of is overdoing your strengths. Let’s imagine for a second that one of your strengths is persistence. It’s very possible that somebody else could see this as stubbornness. That is a strength overdone. As the saying goes, when pointing the finger at someone, one finger points at another person and three are pointing back at you. Think of a time that you’ve witnessed a behaviour in someone else that has been frustrating. I’ll share an example. One of the things that I’ve found irritating at multiple points throughout my career has been people who rush to get things done. People who don’t give full instructions and rush those that they’re speaking to. Now, back to you? What’s your example?

Now consider and be really honest here, is that behaviour something that may be present in yourself sometimes, or may have previously been present in yourself? Everyone you meet is a mirror. Other people can help highlight strengths overdone, or areas of risk in clashing with others. Take note of any frustrating behaviours of others. Challenging interactions can shed the most light on self-awareness. Take my example. That is definitely something that I have the tendency to do, to rush other people. So, when others do it to me I become much more irritated than I should. Once we’ve identified that behaviour, we can consider whether someone is being difficult, or if it’s simply a case of a strength being overdone. So, we invite you to be aware of both types of knowledge, your self-knowledge, and other knowledge. Keep building on your self-awareness and also to keep an eye on overdoing those strengths.

Thank you for listening to TLT Unpacked. If you want to test drive law, follow us. We’re on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Check us out online to find out more and attend future events from TLT Unpacked.