Leadership tool: How to raise self-awareness in the workplace?

How to raise self-awareness

Leadership tool

We were seated in a rooftop bar (48th floor) on Sukhumvit road when this happened. We were five of us; an entrepreneur, an HR manager, a front-line service manager at a 4-star hotel, wife and me. Cool breeze was blowing, an eye-pleasing DJ was spinning hip-hop tunes, people with their phone cameras were trying to capture the mesmerising view, the server had just poured Pinot Noir in our glasses and that’s when the question was thrown at the table ‘How can I help raise self-awareness in my team members?’.

This came from the front-line service manager. Of course the person knew about some of the most popular personality assessment tools such as MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator), DISC Assessment, Big Five Personality Traits, but she wanted something simpler for her young team members.

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The next day, inspired by Jordan Peterson’s ’12 Rules for life’, I created a straightforward tool. One of the easiest, free-of-cost and yet, in my opinion, a profound way to delve into self-discovery is to ask yourself these six simple questions:

1. What do I procrastinate (delay) about?

(e.g. writing a blog post/preparing for something well in advance)

Your response helps understand what challenges you or what you don’t particularly enjoy doing or, perhaps, a deeper fear. There are a few reasons for procrastinating; however, research highlights ‘fear of failure’ as one of the most common ones. Other reasons could be perfectionism, lack of clear goals or low self-efficacy.

2. What am I unwilling to do?

(e.g. lying to my wife/driving in heavy traffic)

Your response guides you to some of your core principles you aren’t willing to compromise on. These are the pillars of your belief system. If you do any of these, your whole world might come crashing down.

3. What do I think is good?

(e.g. being punctual/working out 4 times a week)

Your response shines light on your value system. Your behaviours and thoughts are driven by these deep-seated values. Once you understand what your top values are, they become your North star, leading you to your glory.

4. What am I interested in (so that I’ll do it right away)?

(e.g. helping others when they need it/doing professional development courses)

Your response unveils your strengths. Use the response to understand your unique skills and abilities. By doing more of these, you’re going to boost your growth.

5. What do I congratulate myself for?

(e.g. completing my to-do list/reading books)

Your response tells you what you think is important and worthy of your time. These are on top of your priority list. Use these tasks to harness your unique skills and abilities.

6. What do I criticise myself for failing to do?

(e.g. not meeting successful people/not listening with an open-mind)

Your response directs you to some of the reasons for your past or present failures. Not doing these is going to or has stopped you from growing. One of the first laws of growth in John Maxwell’s ’15 Invaluable Laws of Growth’ is ‘The Law of Intentionality’. If you want to grow, you need to be determined to do the things you have avoided or are still avoiding. Download Worksheet click

How to convince your team to answer them

When I shared this tool with the front-line service manager, I urged her to do this exercise herself before asking her team members to. Why? Ever heard the saying ‘You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink”? Chances are you share this sheet with your team and most of them don’t feel inclined to complete it. Well, you can’t push them to do the exercise if they haven’t personally decided to or see a need to. Hence, this is one of the reasons for you to do this exercise yourself. You should be able to articulate the benefits of raising self-awareness through the lens of your team members. Here are a few questions that might be running on your team’s mind:

  • A – Why do I need to raise my self-awareness?
  • B – How will it benefit me personally and professionally?
  • C – Has my manager done this exercise? How did it help?
  • D – How much time does it take?
  • E – Is there a strategy to do this?
  • F – When will I see the result(s)?

Use the above questions as a guide to shape your argument. When you are standing in front of them trying to convince, take them on a journey to their potential future. Ensure they are able to see it clearly in their mind’s eye. The clearer the image, the higher are the chances of retaining it. If possible, encourage them to draw what they see as their possible future and paste it somewhere they can see it everyday. For tips on persuasive storytelling, check out this article on “The Art of Storytelling in Leadership”.


I genuinely feel, when I finished school, I didn’t know what stream of education I should pursue. When I completed my graduation, I wasn’t sure what career I should pursue. When I was unhappy in my first job, I wasn’t sure if I should continue to pursue. Now that I have a little more self-awareness, I don’t want anyone to lose what I lost and make the mistakes I made.

Finally, I asked the front-line service manager to complete this exercise in a physical setting that can induce the release of dopamine. When I wrote my responses, it was 6:30 am. I had locked myself in a room with my favorite Nespresso coffee and a dark chocolate from Bali.

How do you plan to complete this self-awareness exercise?

Service-mindset leader quote

To all my fellow service-mindset leaders,

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” – Mahatma Gandhi