ABC's of Small Business - 2
A is for...Awareness
Awareness is both a requirement and an ongoing skill for business owners, leaders, and managers. Without it, we are at best running blind. With a keenly developed sense of awareness, especially of ‘self’, we are able to see what is going on in our world and how to respond with intention.
This is easier said than done, says one who has made of a life-long habit of numbing myself when things get a little too ‘real’. It’s as if when I most need to stare reality in the face, I go back to old habits to escape, albeit temporarily.
Awareness, I believe, is like a muscle. It requires focus, effort, skill, and repetition to develop. The payoff is that once we discover and develop our layers of awareness, even the most cloudy and uncertain situations clear up, and potential courses of action unfold. But as much as awareness is a muscle that needs to be flexed, becoming increasingly aware of ourselves and the situations we find ourselves in has more to do with observance than action, and letting go more than grabbing hold.
Expanded awareness helps us bring more of ourselves – and so more resources – to bear on whatever issues and opportunities may be presenting themselves at any given time. While grit or resilience are important qualities for leaders to demonstrate, the net result will not be as we intend if we do so blindly. It is vital that we, as leaders, make time on a continual basis to take the current temperature and step back even briefly to assess what is really going on both within ourselves and the fluid situations we are in.
Awareness, in effect, is a type of contemplation. Those who develop this skill are able to step out of the situation and observe themselves, those around them, and the present reality. This is not easy to do, but if we were able to see how we are thinking, behaving, and reacting we might just be able to course-correct in the most effective manner. It is vital that we don’t confuse an increased awareness with increased assessment or judgment. The key is to observe, which then brings an objective insight that shines the light on what is really going on, rather than just hunkering down and pressing on without thought. Simply shedding light on ourselves and our situation is often enough to bring forth the needed answers.
This, of course, all sounds well and good but may seem like a commitment of time that we don’t have the luxury of taking in the fast-paced world of business. Sure, increasing awareness may involve taking quiet time away to gain clarity, spending time in solitude, unplugging from technology… and I recommend all of these things on a somewhat regular basis. Bill Gates is famous for taking regular time away with a stack of books to read and a blank notepad to scribble down thoughts and ideas, but it is not essential to do this in order to gain increased awareness of self, the business, or the issues and opportunities presenting themselves.
We can gain increased awareness through daily practices such as meditation and quiet and I recommend this highly. I am an advocate for (but not always the best practitioner of) simple things we can do through our busy days… such as turning off the radio in the car, going for a quick walk to get some fresh air, and not being a slave to email, text, and social media.
We all have our ways of numbing from the stresses of daily life – alcohol, drugs, serial relationships, overeating/undereating, shopping, Netflix, overworking – because we are human. But avoidance and numbing are fleeting solutions that dull our awareness and create more and greater issues. We all know this to be true.
The real magic happens when we are able to quickly step outside ourselves and observe. I am a big fan of trying to consciously lengthen the distance between stimulus and response, in taking a beat to objectively respond to what reality is being injected into our lives, as opposed to emotionally reacting.
Okay, let’s wrap this up…
· Awareness allows us to see reality – our world unfolding and ourselves as part of it – objectively. This allows us, as leaders, to respond with mindful intention.
· Self-awareness is a key requirement for effective leadership. Great leaders understand their own personalities, strengths and weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivations, and emotions. Being self-aware helps us understand others, and helps us regulate our attitudes, reactions, and responses to others and all situations.
· Vision and purpose are essential, but without high levels of awareness can, ironically, blind us.
· Awareness requires discipline and the implementation of best practices. This includes taking regular time away from distractions, lessening overstimulation, gaining clarity, and looking inward.
· Awareness is vital for assessing opportunity and threat, understanding when our plan is no longer effective or serving the greater good, and keeping our mind’s eye on the bigger picture of what is truly important.
In short, as we move through the world and build the success of our business we must take the time to STOP, quit numbing ourselves, pay attention, be alert and present.
The true challenge of awareness is to WAKE UP and not sleep-walk through life!
Until next time!