Yesterday, I was sitting by the window of a cafe, enjoying a cup of tea and people-watching. It was beautifully sunny autumn day in central London and there was a gentle but steady flow of people heading to offices or meetings or nearby tourist sights.
At one point I noticed a man approaching the cafe. The pavement was spacious but the natural movement of pedestrians meant that four people were just behind him; each one following the other but with their own thoughts and purpose. Right in front of the cafe, the man stopped without warning. He checked something on his shoe. He took a step forward and stopped again, wiped his shoe a couple of times on the paving slab and then continued on his way, satisfied that he had resolved his problem.
The four strangers behind him were slower to recover. Their faces suggested frustration, irritation, confusion and surprise. They took longer to get back in to their stride. I imagine they were each having an internal grumble as they continued their journey. Perhaps they even shared the story with the person they were meeting. Yet the cause of this disquiet, the man in front, was blissfully oblivious.
We can probably all remember times when we've felt like that. When we have been impacted by someone's actions or words in a way they either hadn't anticipated or were blind to. A manager, a leader, a colleague, a partner, a friend? But, let's be honest, how often have we also been THAT guy - the one who stopped without thinking about those around him?
I'm sure he was not a "bad person", he was just not self-aware in that moment.
The remainder of my day was spent with a group of new managers discussing personal and company values. Self-awareness was our starting point. It's a fast-moving, ambitious company and for some it felt luxurious and indulgent to spend time on themselves but, as the man in the street so perfectly demonstrated, if you don't have self-awareness, you could create problems (get in the way, slow people down) without even realising it.
So, today, make a point of noticing how you feel at various points during the working day and how your feelings drive your behaviour. Notice the reactions of others, whether in person, over the phone or on email. Reconnect with (or discover) your personal values.
Self-awareness is not about second-guessing ourselves or diluting our personalities, it's about knowing how our imperfections work for and against us and being OK with both. Make self-awareness your goal for the week and see what a difference it makes to you and those around you.
If you want to know more about self-awareness and leadership and how coaching can help, feel free to contact me through LinkedIn or visit my website.
Stephanie works with intelligent individuals and teams on leadership, personal impact, choice and change. Find out more at www.stephaniesmithcoaching.co.uk