The Most Needed and Least Taught Skill: Awareness

By Jae Ellard, Simple Intentions Founder

[Note: This post originally appeared on Huffington Post.]

awarenessThere are many ways to define the concept of awareness. Generally, they all boil down to a person’s ability to see the world and how they show up in it. As a concept, awareness is much easier discussed and promoted than practiced and implemented. Most of us are not taught that awareness is a skill, let alone a workplace skill.

Why is awareness an important job skill? When people – whether individual contributors, managers or leaders – practice awareness they are better able to see the impact of their behavior on others and the results related to that behavior.

For example, if managers yell at their employees, those employees might leave, the result being high attrition. The accountability is then to correlate the behavior of yelling at employees to high attrition. Without the skill of awareness a manager might be stuck wondering, “Why do people keep leaving my team?” The answer seems obvious, but often when you’re living it and it’s your team, it’s much harder see the behavior and connect the impact and result.

When people use the skill of awareness at work and see the impact of their behavior — both positive and negative — they can then begin to practice making intentional choices about what behaviors support or sabotage desired outcomes.

Awareness can be developed at both individual and team levels. In groups, there may be shared behaviors that are norms for how the team or company accomplishes tasks. With the skill of awareness teams can more clearly see what behaviors support desired outcomes. They can also work together to create new habits for how to do things. People might still make choices that negatively impact others, but with awareness, the impact is realized and the behavior can be amended as needed.

Awareness is not a “learn it once and have it forever” skill like learning to button a button. Rather, it’s more like math, a skill that builds on itself with many progressive layers and varying applications. It’s a skill that needs to be discussed and practiced before it can become a natural, integrated skill.

The skill of awareness is not rocket science, yet it requires commitment and time to develop. There is no shortcut; it involves risk, trial and error, which seem like luxuries in today’s over-booked, “busy,” data-driven world. For teams and organizations, it requires the desire and investment from leadership to build a culture that cares about not only work outcomes, but also the process for how outcomes are achieved.

If you want to enrich your career, then practice awareness. If you want a more accountable team or company, then practice awareness. Whether you are aware or not, your behavior has impact. Why not choose to see it?


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