Why Being Self-Aware is Important For a CEO

Man in formal attire looking at his reflection

All of us have various degrees of self-awareness. If you are the CEO, success for you requires a very high level of self-awareness. 

It sometimes takes a while to become fully aware of who you are being and the impact it has on your performance – and the performance of the company. Once you start to understand yourself, you’ll see how you show up every day and begin to become a better version of yourself.

When you’re not aware, you will do and say things because that’s what has worked for you in the past. In fact, most of the things you say and do work. They are your success patterns. They are what has gotten you to the CEO role.

When Your Ways of Being Fail

Your success patterns work — until they don’t. At some point, some of your ways of being will fail. When this happens, most CEOs don’t realize what’s happening. They keep trying what has worked in the past, but because the world has changed around them, their old patterns aren’t working anymore. They aren’t aware enough to see that their very behaviors are failing them.

For example, one of my CEOs used to see the world as very right or wrong. One of their success patterns was finding the right way of doing things. Once they found it, they deemed all other ways as “wrong”. This served that CEO very well as they founded their company and helped it grow very rapidly. Then the company’s growth hit a wall — and they didn’t know why.

Working with their CEO coach, they were able to discover their patterns — the patterns that were no longer serving them. They learned how to become self-aware. They had to become fully aware of their patterns so they could observe those patterns and the implications of relying on them.

In looking at their pattern of finding the “right” solution and dismissing others as “wrong”, they had closed off new and sometimes better ideas. They weren’t open to trying things that hadn’t worked in the past. My CEO assumed they knew what was best…and closed themself to things that were different than what they perceived to be the best. The CEO learned to recognize that they had these patterns and then worked with me to create new and better ones. Once the CEO made these changes, their company’s growth took off.

Use “Observer Mode” for Self-Awareness

A great starting place for self-awareness is learning how to use your “observer” mode. Imagine there’s a camera on the wall high above and behind you. The camera is always there, wherever you go. It can see what you do, hear what you say, and even understand what you are thinking. 

Next, imagine that in a room far away is a big flat-panel screen and a person (the observer) sitting in front of that screen watching and listening and understanding everything you do, and the observer is you.

You are not a judge, you only observe and notice. The observer can now say “isn’t it interesting that I view the world that way?” When you observe and ask this question your mind will now open up to viewing things differently.

This is the essence of self-awareness. It’s not enough to just notice. You need to accept that however you are — or however you have been — may not be optimal. You need a perspective that says “I’m open to viewing the world differently.”

When you practice becoming self-aware, you open your mind to learning new and better ways of being. You are now open to creating new success patterns and leaving some of your old patterns behind.

My CEOs use the observer mode to create new success patterns and watched their company grow way faster than before.

Controlling Negative Reactions with Observer Mode

In another example, one of my CEOs used to get mad quickly. If someone didn’t do what they asked or performed poorly or delivered below their expectations, their first reaction was anger. They couldn’t understand how that bad thing could have happened. After they were angry they got upset and were disappointed in the person who didn’t deliver against expectations.

Through coaching, the CEO discovered that this reaction was not serving them well. It put them in a state of mind of being focused on the bad things or the things that didn’t happen. They were “derailed” and weren’t very productive for quite sometime after that.

Not only were they not very productive after this happened, but other people didn’t want to be around the CEO. Even worse, the other people around the CEO weren’t productive either. The CEO’s anger was taking down the performance of the whole company.

Eventually, they learned to shift to observer mode. 

When their expectations weren’t met, emotions flooded their brain. They realized that they couldn’t stop the instant emotions, but they could stop how they reacted after those emotions showed up.

The CEO would pause (by taking a deep breath) and shift to being the observer. The pause is critical because it enabled them to separate the emotions from what they did next.

After pausing, the question the CEO asked “in the moment” was “isn’t it interesting I feel this way.” They aren’t the judge, just the observer. They still felt angry but by pausing and observing, they now had a choice as to what they did next.

In the past, they would have lashed out.

The CEO now asked “what is a more powerful, more optimistic, more useful way of being right now?” Getting to that place was a game-changer for them. They became curious. They asked, “how did this happen and how can we prevent it going forward?” 

Learning how to use the observer mode can be a game-changer for you as well. 

Contact CEO Coach Glenn Gow

My name is Glenn Gow, CEO Coach. I love coaching CEOs and want to help make you an even better CEO. Let’s decide if we are a fit for each other. Schedule a time to talk with me at calendly.com/glenngow. I look forward to speaking with you soon.

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