Nicola is one of our instructors, and has fifteen years of international experience in the fields of leadership, teamwork, conflict resolution, coaching and organizational development both within multinational companies and international organizations.
Integrating Self-perception and Feedback: The First Step to Self-Awareness
by Nicola Naddi, Business Leader – Europe, 3Circle Partners
How can we find our real self? The question may sound too philosophical and not practical enough for a manager or more generally for anyone who works in a business organization.
Maybe, we should ask a more practical and less philosophical question: how can we collect accurate information on ourselves? And why should we need to receive accurate information on ourselves? The answer is quite simple: because if we are not aware of how we behave and contribute in a working environment, there is a high likelihood that we are not efficient. Therefore, self-awareness is the first step to better self-management, which in turn can create a better climate for the journey of self-mastery.
When we want to buy a new car, we gather information from magazines, advertisements, dealers, friends, etc. When looking to gain self-awareness, we need to apply more or less the same process: we need to collect reliable information from various sources.
One important source is represented by our perceptions of ourselves. But if we think back to our new car analogy, you would be unlikely to base your decision to buy a new car on only one source of information. This is especially true if that source of information is biased (such as a car dealer!). The same apply to our self-perception: we cannot use our judgment and evaluation of ourselves to find out who really are because, as much as a car dealer, we tend to be subjective. Therefore, to find our real self we need to receive inputs from others.
Observer inputs as well as self-perception needs to be put together systematically, sifted and normalized to provide a working profile of an individual. The intricate nature of this task may be optimally facilitated with computer assistance. This is the reason why Dr. Meredith Belbin and his team have created the e-Interplace® system, which creates Belbin Team Role Reports. It is composed of a Self-Perception Inventory (SPI) and Observer Assessments (OA) to measure behavioral characteristics that we display when working in teams.
It is important to remember that the Belbin Team Role Reports measures behavior rather than personality (unlike psychometric tests). While it could be argued that only the individual knows his/her own personality, behavior is observable and can be interpreted and used to predict future reactions and conduct.
Since behavior is observable, it is relatively simple to receive feedback from others on how we behave. We just need to ask for it. This is why the Belbin Team Role Reports is built in such a way that we can ask our boss, colleagues and collaborators (a minimum of four people) for feedback in an anonymous and systematic fashion to substantiate or refute our own claims expressed in the SPI.
As we have pointed out before, this is extremely important because our answers in the SPI cannot be fully trusted because we may tend to be subjective. Furthermore, we must also consider that we may have limited self-insight or we may answer in the SPI (as in many other psychometric tests that rely entirely on self-reporting) regarding how we wish to behave or be perceived rather than how we really are.
Finally, we can add that responses from self-perception are isolated rather than “democratic” and since only one point of view is given, there are limited or even no opportunities for learning and personal development.
In conclusion, to stress the importance and need for integrating self-perception with feedback from others in order to become more self-aware and efficient, I’d like to use another analogy: If one person tells you you’re drunk, you might be ok to drive home, but if four people tell you that you’re drunk, you should hand over the car keys. After all, they are telling you something based your observable behavior.
If different sources of information are giving us the same input, we should seriously consider integrating our self-perception with feedback from others. If we did so, it would mean that we are taking the first step on the personal development path to self-awareness.
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