As an employee, it is important for many of us to improve ourselves and careers. It takes more than reading all books and attending every training program.
“It does not matter where you go, if you do not know where you want to go.” Lewis Carroll ‘Alice in Wonderland’
We need to take certain strategic steps towards self-improvement, starting with a clear understanding of ourselves. We have to get to know ourselves better, be clear on what we really want to do and what we are really capable of.
I will present this article to you in three separate sections. Starting with this one, which covers the topic: “Know Thyself” or “How to Know Ourselves Better”.
PART 1 – TO KNOW OURSELVES BETTER
“Knowledge should mean a full grasp of knowledge:
Knowledge means to know yourself, heart and soul.
If you have failed to understand yourself,
Then all of your reading has missed its call.” Yunus Emre, translated by Talat Sait Halman
We have to define our strengths and weaknesses, be aware of opportunities and threats1. I would like to talk about the competencies below. Competency is defined as being able to fulfill our responsibilities and duties. Competencies are defined through some characteristics:3
The inner circle represents the qualities that could be hard to change. So it is better to work on the outer parts and be aware of the inner circle. For instance, if I am an outgoing person who likes to communicate with other people, it is better for me to choose a career path in jobs similar to the Sales or Human Resources. If we choose our jobs accordingly, it will be easier for us to climb the stairs of carreer opportunities3.
Get Your Personal Traits Inventory
Personal Traits Inventories provide valuable information about our qualifications, strengths, weaknesses, self-motivators, responsibility, extraversion- introversion and such characteristics.6
You can have your personal inventory through internet. However, I advise you to choose an inventory that is adapted to the culture that you live in. I would suggest to use some generally preferred ones like DISC7, 16 PF8 or Thomas9 trait inventories. You can find their links, among the references section, right below this article. Do not forget that there are no right or wrong answers in these inventories. We just have to be open and honest about ourselves, when we are filling it in to be able to get accurate results.
Simply ask yourself, “What kind of a person am I?”. Write down your answers, that defines you.
Think about the jobs that you like to do. What duties in your job you like the best? Things that makes you happy when you do it. Try to find out the similarities between all these. Try to evaluate what do they have in common.
“Do what you like most, so you will never work even for one day in your life.” Confucius
What motivates you? Can you motivate yourself or do you need someone to motivate you?
Think about your duties and targets in your job. Can you complete them in the given time? What is the percentage that you can reach your goals?
Observe your education and training levels. How is your education rank when compared to your colleagues?
Do you know any foreign languages? It is very important to learn different languages. If you are not already a native English speaker, it is extremely beneficial, at least to learn English. By doing this, you will be able to reach an enormous amount of knowledge collected all over the world.
Choose people whom you trust and ask them their opinions about you. Sometimes you may need to ask them to write these down, if you feel they are anxious to tell you directly. You have to convince people (especially if they are working for you) that you need it for your personal development and you will not take it wrong. Especially, it is more important to get feedback from the people who directly reports to you to understand and improve your management skills.
No matter which method you use to get the feedback, it is very important not to take it personally. Also, do not develop a shield of resistance. Focus on the feedback and try to understand. If you cannot comprehend what is mentioned, you may ask for real life examples about those. These may help you to understand.
You can see the JOHARI Window right below. It is used to compare self-consciousness and people’s perception about us. First of all, choose some adjectives that reflect you well. Then ask some of your friends to describe you with some adjectives. Write those down into the appropriate windows and compare them to see which are similar or the same2.
The “ARENA” which contains similar and same ones are clear for everyone. However, if you want your characteristics that stand in the “Hidden” area to be recognized by others, you have to promote them. The “Blind” area is the part you have to try to understand and recognize yourself. If you cannot fully understand what they mean, ask for some more details. The “Unknown” section is going to stay blank, representing the potential2.
If there is a performance management system used in your company, get a blank performance evaluation form to evaluate yourself by answering the questions.
If you do not have such a system, then you can just try to find out which competencies are critical in your job to be able to successful (There are different sets that you can easily find on internet, or you can just think about them yourself).
Request feedback from your boss and compare them with your results. Try to understand her/his point of view about you. Especially the fields that do not match with your bosses are the ones that you have to spend more time with and try to look deeper.
Once, we were determining intelligence levels by using IQ. But Professor Dr. Gardner puts forward “Multiple Intelligence Theory” about intelligence and told that people are more complicated. There are different types of intelligence, and people may be at different levels in each of them. This theory helps us to better understand ourselves and some of our skills as well. It also states, which methods of learning suits you better.
Score yourself for these types of intelligence:
Mathematics and Logic: People good at working with numbers, talks in terms of data and analytical are stronger in this.
Linguistic: Better ones use language in an efficient way, knows an enormous amount of words, have good grammar skills.
Visual: Gets beyond others in thinking with pictures and images, can easily grab and solve 3D puzzles and they are very good at visual arts.
Musical–rhythmic and harmonic: They can easily understand rhythms, melodies and harmony in the sounds. They can play complex tunes just by hearing once. They generally like to sing songs.
Intrapersonal: Can easily and accurately analyze themselves and understand their own feelings. They tend to work alone.
Social/Interpersonal: They have good empathy skills, so can easily monitor, understand and even manipulate people. They can become social leaders.
Bodily–kinesthetic: They have a higher ability to use and control their bodies.
Naturalistic: They observe and understand nature easily and accurately.
Existential: Enjoys asking questions about existence and able to understand spiritual matters easily and precisely.
It is essential to have consciousness in our decision making process. Especially because it provides us valuable information about our real privileges in life.
Try to remember your decision process and comprehend what your decisions are based on:
Emotions (Ex: I did it because I like it, I hate it…)
Values (Ex: I did it as it was fair, it is the honorable way, the honest way…)
Thoughts (Ex: I decided to do it because it makes sense, it is the logical way…)
Instincts (Ex: I did it as my inner voice told me to do…)
Write down the most important things in your life, such as family, health, hobbies, etc. Then draw a circle like the one below and divide it into eight equal pieces. Write the things on your list, on top of each slice. Rate them from 1 to 10 in term of how much time you spend to deal with these issues, and mark them on a scale as shown in the figure. Connect each dot and you will have your Wheel of Life. A wheel can only move efficiently if it is well balanced. And the rounder the circle you have drawn is, the better you balance your life. If there are huge spikes, you may have to work on balancing things.
These tools help us to understand ourselves better, and this is the first and most important step for self-improvement. Then, we can start to talk about how we will use these tools and information to reach our targets for development. I will explain the ways to do it in my next article.