The Connection Between Self-Awareness and Empathy
Most of us think we are quite self-aware. Most of us also unconsciously believe that the lens with which we see the world is the only and best way to see the world. Which means…most of us are wrong.
Self-awareness is understanding how your behaviours, thoughts, and emotions align with your internal values and standards. To be highly self-aware means you can objectively evaluate yourself. It means you know your personality style and how you habitually act, think, and feel, and most importantly, why. The good news? Self-awareness is a life-long pursuit, and it can be developed over time.
To be aware of yourself, you need to be aware of those around you. It requires an understanding that there are different perspectives and frames of reference which influence how each of us acts and reacts as we move through the world. At the core of developing our self-awareness, we need to become truly empathetic people. To develop one, we must develop both.
Empathy requires the capacity to understand or feel what someone else may be experiencing from their own frame of reference. It’s the ability to put yourself in another’s shoes. Without self-awareness, empathy is impossible.
Fostering a Self-Aware Team
In an organization, both self-awareness and empathy are considered to be among the most important skills for successful leadership. These skills lead to better communication, less conflict in the workplace, greater collaboration, more effective meetings, and increased productivity. As a result, companies experience greater client satisfaction and ultimately greater profits. By learning how to talk to, learn from, work with, and understand those around you at work, an empathetic culture and environment can grow.
So how do we work to become more empathetic and more self-aware people? We believe, the most effective tool is The Enneagram (ANY-a-gram).
What is The Enneagram?
The Enneagram is an ancient personality typing system consisting of 9 distinct personality types, defined in a numbering system 1 through 9. Each type represents and describes patterns of how individuals interpret the world and manage their emotions. Each type is shaped by a core belief of how the world works which unconsciously drives one’s motivations to behave in certain ways or make certain decisions. Understanding your Enneagram, as well as The Enneagram types of the people around you is where you can begin to move up the continuum of self-awareness and ultimately deepen your ability to empathize.
The Enneagram at Work
Using personality assessments in organizations is not a new concept. They have been widely implemented during the hiring process, for onboarding new employees, and for team building. Most assessments provide personality preferences, using different acronyms or labels to neatly describe someone, often causing resistance by the people being asked to take them. Tests like Meyers-Briggs and The Four Tendencies can provide useful insights but are often met with skepticism and fear of being put into a ‘box’, with no way to escape.
Their focus is on providing personality information, as data, and do not primarily focus on ways to develop or provide a path for growth. Not to mention they are often put in a drawer, forgotten about, and seldom referenced once they are taken. This is why The Enneagram assessment has grown rapidly in popularity over the last decade. In the world of personal development, using this self-awareness tool has gained momentum because of the levels of development within each type, giving us a platform to grow and improve continuously. We can take this information and then learn how to apply it to our lives inside and outside of work.
Best Practices for Integrating The Enneagram into your Corporate Culture
At Flipp, we have been using The Enneagram for over 2 years. It has become a part of our culture and our daily vernacular. We are continuously referring to each of our numbers and learning ways to better engage with and understand one another. These are some of what we consider to be best practices when using The Enneagram at work.
Start at the hiring process
The Enneagram should be provided to any potential candidates during the interview process. We use this as a tool to provide high-level insight into the personality type, awareness level, and fit within our current team. This is not used as a tool to ‘weed out’ certain Enneagrams, and therefore, certain candidates, but to provide additional information as to how this person may fit into the culture and within the team they would be directly working with.
Share the results
New team members should learn about their own type and the types of their teammates on their very first day. We do this to set a tone of empathy, which is one of our core values. We are inclusive, compassionate, and always listening. We are aware that our personal viewpoint is not the only viewpoint. We are a stronger team as a result. With everyone having the same information and understanding of The Enneagram types in the company, we have an equal amount of information to approach and learn from each other.
Educate the team
Teams need to be well-versed in The Enneagram in order for it to be effective. We do quarterly ‘refresh’ presentations on each of the 9 types, the types found within our team, and examples to illustrate that type. Growing in self-awareness is an ongoing process, which requires ongoing education. When we meet as a team it may be to review topics such as ‘What triggers each Enneagram type’ or keeping it light with ‘Gift ideas for your secret Santa based on their Enneagram type’.
Use Concrete Examples
References to our Enneagram types are used in real-time situations. When we are preparing for a meeting or working through a project post-mortem, our personalities become a part of the conversation to work through our approach, our tone, and our expectations. Often, when we take a step back from a situation, we are able to break apart how a conversation went or why someone reacted the way they did, giving us greater insight into what worked and what could improve moving forward.
Getting Started with The Enneagram
If you want to be an organization that leads with empathy and values self-awareness, The Enneagram is a perfect tool to implement and build from. There are many basic and free assessments you can take with a simple online search. However, if you want in-depth test results and a strategy for how to incorporate this valuable information into your culture, Flipp can help.
We run an Enneagram Group Workshop that includes professional assessments and a 3-hour presentation to your team about the results, why they matter, and what to do with them. If you are interested in learning more, please reach out to our team.
Self-awareness and empathy are driving teams and organizations of the future. If we expect great communication, teamwork, employee satisfaction, and performance, we should also expect companies to invest in building these skills at every level.