Why self-awareness is not enough

Posted 08 November 2023 by
Kevin Wood, The Myers-Briggs Company

5 mins

In the Psychology of Leadership podcast episode, Cameron Nott, Managing Director of The Myers-Briggs Company’s Asia-Pacific region, is asked what constitutes good leadership.

“There's a number of different views on what it takes to be a great leader,” he says. “But if I were to try to synthesize it down into five key areas, I think it's influence, integrity, agility, empathy, and self-awareness—but perhaps active self-awareness.”

Active self-awareness is the crucial distinction here. 

“It's about not only understanding our strengths [and] understanding our development areas,” he explains, “but it's also about having the motivation to act upon them.”

It’s this arena—equipping people with self-knowledge and helping them turn it into action—which is where business psychology consultants really thrive.

“In our workshops, participants see how personality influences and impacts everyday life and the world of work,” says Dr. Rachel Cubas-Wilkinson, Head of US Professional Services at The Myers-Briggs Company. “Our personality influences how we communicate with others, how we tend to collaborate and work in teams, how we approach decision-making, problem-solving, and conflict, and how we might approach leadership and influencing others. 

“In our live workshops, participants begin to see these connections. The facilitator helps them reflect on their own preferences and behavior with a look towards applying newfound personality insights for greater workplace effectiveness.” 

Again, it’s about active self-awareness.  

“We subscribe to the philosophy that once you come into knowledge about personality type,” she adds, “it is incumbent on you to look at the situations and relationships in your life where you most need to flex behavior so you can meet the needs of the other person.”

Cameron demonstrates this with a recent client.

Overcoming disengagement in an organization

“[The client’s] latest climate survey had revealed a real spike in disengagement,” he says. “When they peeled back some of the insights and looked more closely at some of the feedback, the employees were saying that they were unclear about the vision of the organization. There were complaints about lack of opportunities for development and complaints about some bullying leadership styles.”

The organization had their climate results. But they didn’t know how to move forward to make changes necessary to engage employees. 

So, they contacted Cameron and his colleague, Dr. Martin Boult, to help. Their proposal was to implement assessment and development at all levels of the organization, right through from executives to the ‘shop floor’. 

All staff would complete the MBTI® assessment. Leaders would also complete FIRO® and 360-degree feedback assessments.

The results revealed key personality differences between groups of people, especially between mid-level managers and their reports. The leaders collectively reported a Thinking preference. But the employees broadly reported a Feeling preference. 

This meant that managers generally used logic and objectivity to make decisions whereas their reports tended to use personal values and subjectivity in decision-making. Decisions made by managers, therefore, generally overlooked the things that mattered most to reports: the impact on people.

This insight gave managers something concrete to work on. 

“One action that the leaders took was to become much more conscious of the Feeling preference when they look to make decisions,” says Cameron. 

“They wanted to be more conscious of how they approach people and the impact of decisions on people…that's important for them, as a team, to make more well-rounded, more balanced decisions. But for the organization they were leading, given that they had a high number of Feeling employees, it was even more important.”

Listen to the podcast for the full story.

Self-awareness and ‘so what?’

“When we learn about ourselves, it’s pretty powerful,” says Rachel. “It’s not just an a-ha moment that’s fun. It’s factual, psychological information that can have a powerful impact on our lives in and out of the workplace.” 

“When we work with the people in organizations, there are a lot of a-ha moments for self-awareness and personal development because our consultants are constantly drawing connections in discussions and activities. They get people to say ‘OK, this is my personality style—so what? What does this mean for me and my team?’ And I think that’s a true skill that our consultants have.”

Psychological insights like these are powerful for creating behavioral change in the workplace—change that increases efficiencies in teams and improves communication, change that helps managers and direct reports have better relationships. It all contributes to lower turnover and higher engagement. 

Our Professional Services team are experts in business psychology and use a consultative approach to listen to your biggest challenges and find ways to get the most from your organization’s greatest investment—your people. 


To hear more from our consultants, read the previous blog and check these podcasts:

To learn how Professional Services could help you and your organization, get in touch and download our consultancy brochure.


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