Self-awareness (plus action) Translates to the Bottom-line

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According to a new study by the Korn-Ferry Institute,
“knowing thyself” isn’t just a nice-to-to; self-awareness flows directly to a
firm’s bottom-line

I’ve been sharing this information with my network and it’s
generating a lot of interest. While we’ve all know that awareness of strengths
and weaknesses and how we are perceived by others is essential to being an
effective leader, it’s interesting to see a connection made to a firm’s
financial results.

Here’s more from a June 15, 2015 press release:

An analysis by Korn
Ferry (NYSE:KFY), the preeminent authority on leadership and talent, shows that
public companies with a higher rate of return (ROR) also employ professionals
who exhibit higher levels of self-awareness.

The Korn Ferry Institute analyzed a total of 6,977 self-assessments
from professionals at 486 publicly traded companies to identify the “blind
spots” in individuals’ leadership characteristics. A blind spot is defined as a
skill that the professional counted among his or her strengths, when coworkers
cited that same skill as one of the professional’s weaknesses.

The frequency of such
blind spots was then gauged against the ROR of those companies’ stock. The
analysis demonstrated that, on average:

• Poorly performing
companies’ professionals had 20 percent more blind spots than those working at
financially strong companies.

• Poor-performing
companies’ professionals were 79 percent more likely to have low overall
self-awareness than those at firms with robust ROR.

“Self-awareness can
directly translate into better choices, and result in more fulfilling careers,”
said Global Vice President of the Korn Ferry Institute, Joy Hazucha. “On the
other hand, those with low self-awareness tend to scramble the messages they
receive concerning improvement, interpreting them as a threat rather than an
opportunity. They often have an ‘I am what I am’ mentality and continue doing
things the way they always have.”

Hazucha says a
person’s level of self-awareness can be increased through 360-degree
performance appraisals paired with effective coaching. This in turn drives
improved performance and greater work satisfaction.

“Feedback helps
leaders to identify their blind spots,” said Hazucha. “We have known that
feedback was important for personal improvement, but this shows that it also
pays off in the organization’s performance. A collective focus on personal
improvement leads to improvements in the organization.”

While being aware of your limitations sounds like a
no-brainer, it’s not. First of all, it’s hard to get honest, accurate, behavior
feedback. People are uncomfortable telling the emperor he/she has no clothes,
and leaders often shoot the messenger or ignore the feedback.

360 degree assessments are one way to get feedback and build
self-awareness, but not everybody has access to these tools. I’ve written about
ways to get feedback
– where there’s a will there’s a way, if a leader is
willing to ask and listen.

However, I would argue that self-awareness alone is not
sufficient to improve leadership effectiveness. Management guru Peter Drucker
once said: “The problem in my life and
other people’s lives is not the absence of knowing what to do but the absence
of doing it.”

It’s called the “knowing-doing gap”. We may know we are supposed to eat healthy
foods and exercise, but at the end of the day, we make a zillion excuses not
to, put off going to the gym and give in to the temptation of those chocolate
chip cookies.

So how does a leader move from knowing to doing? Working
with an executive coach can help a leader overcome their limiting beliefs and
barriers, generate options and action plans, and help keep the leader focused
and motivated.  But again, not everyone
can afford to hire an executive coach. A newly self-aware leader either have to
be motivated enough to do it on their own (the “just do it approach”), or they
could work with a supportive manager, mentor or peer coach (a learning

That’s assuming the leader wants to change. Take it from
executive coach Marshall Goldsmith: When
People Don’t Want to Change — Don’t Waste Your Time!

So the next time someone approaches your tentatively and
asks “can I give you some feedback?”
– drop everything, pay attention, and thank the person for the feedback. Then,
don’t just stand there, do something
about it! You’ll be a better leader, a better person, and you will be making a positive
contribution to your organizations financial.