unicorn employee

How to Become a Unicorn Employee: Self-Awareness Is Key

3 Tips for Becoming the Unicorn Employee

We’re excited to welcome a new guest blogger to Q4 Insights! Dr. Patricia Bagsby is Vice President of Organizational Consulting at Psychological Associates. Patricia’s extensive knowledge on behavioral science, change management, and process improvement principles, combined with 12 years of facilitation and training, gives her unique insight into actionable tips for leadership development. Today’s she’s looking at Unicorn Employees: In today’s competitive job market, how can you stand out?

Self-Awareness Is Key

Head hunting self-aware employees is as competitive as it gets in the recruitment and selection arenas. MBA programs actively vie for applicants who express self-awareness. Additionally, once an employee has an organizational role, the ability to remain self aware has an impact on their personal effectiveness and, ultimately, organizational performance. Even the most technically qualified leaders are less successful when they lack self-awareness.

What Does a Self-Aware Employee Look Like?

Would you know self-awareness if you saw it? When you think about the leaders and team members around you, which ones are more self-aware than others? You can use these behaviors as a way to identify people with a high level of self-awareness:

  • Understand their emotions and don’t let their feelings rule them
  • Have self-confidence, particularly to handle moods and emotions
  • Trust their intuition
  • Understand their strengths and areas to improve
  • Actively seek feedback
  • Take action to improve capabilities

Why Does Self-Awareness Matter at Work?

Shouldn’t we only care about the bottom line? If the organization is making a profit, what do we care if employees and leaders are self-aware? Organizations are seeing the impact of leaders who lack this vital characteristic in terms of decreased morale and performance. For example, a boss who lacks self-awareness is more likely to be overcome by negative emotions and less likely to seek feedback on the impact of their behavior. The effect on the team could be employee disengagement and turnover.

The Dimensional Model of Behavior emphasizes not only the competency to drive for results, but also the importance of relationships in an employee’s overall effectiveness. Self-awareness is critical to understanding why we interact with people in certain ways, why others behave the way they do, and how we can effectively lead and work with others whose personal style may or may not match our own. In short, self-awareness is the foundation of effective work relationships.

Can You Learn Self-Awareness?

Part of self-awareness is recognizing how we see the world. We all interpret the world around us based on our individual, unique perspective. It can sometimes be difficult to get an “outside eyes” view of our behavior.

But while higher education and corporate America agree that self-awareness is a valuable trait, teaching and developing employees to be self-aware is not part of the typical management education curriculum. Training workshops like Leadership Through People Skills provide a safe, structured way to get “outside eyes” on our behavior and provide real, candid feedback that is useful for any leader and valuable for any organization.

4 Tips for Increasing Self-Awareness

If you’re ready to increase your self-awareness and become that unicorn employee, here are three simple tips you can incorporate into your professional development plans:

  1. Attend a training workshop. Leadership Through People Skills is the gold standard for improving leadership, communication, and self-awareness.
  2. Reflect on a regular basis. Analyze your perspective and reactions, both your own and the reactions of those with whom you interact. Additionally, reflect on your own behaviors, as well as your underlying emotions or needs.
  3. Get regular feedback. Seek out trusted personal advisors to provide real, actionable feedback. Once you get their feedback, actively work to build on your strengths and minimize your areas for improvement.
  4. Check out our Emotional Intelligence Webinar.  It focuses on self awareness and self management. You’ll come away with 2 skills to strength your emotional intelligence and self awareness.


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