Going Meta - The Forgotten Gift of Awareness
You walk along the a busy street avoiding dream walkers with eyes glued to their mobile phones. You work out in an empty, quiet gym and someone wanders in and turns the music channel on full blast with out even a “Do you mind ……?” Your delicate conversation with your boss is repeatedly interrupted while she takes calls on her mobile phone. Do we live in a world where awareness is no longer valued?
Awareness is a basic human attribute that is with each of us, all our waking hours - it is our consciousness, our perception and understanding of what is happening to us and around us. Fundamental to our living and surviving from day to day is our awareness of ourselves, of other people and of the part of the world we are currently inhabiting.
But there are insidious forces that work to undermine our awareness. The digital world is one drawing us into an otherworld of enticing goods, inexhaustible information feeds, titillating social chat, and beyond- imagining entertainment. The pace at which we live and have to work leaves us time-impoverished with no space to stop and examine what is happening to us. Information comes at us incessantly ; from every direction to the extent that we seek out the curatorial services of Google and Amazon to save us from that vague sense of drowning. These and other forces are working to keep us ignorant of the real world as it is now.
We are less aware because we are less attentive. We are less and less able to focus our attention on any single thing for more than a few seconds. Disruption is constant and we even seek it out to keep stimulated and as a result we are only partly present at work, with our families and friends and in our leisure time
So what has this got to do with leadership?
There are three key areas of awareness that good leadership could do well to re-ignite, thoughtfully cultivate in themselves and model for others to emulate - Self-awareness, Social awareness and Context awareness.
What is your current state of awareness in these three areas
Self-awareness: To what extent are you consciously in touch with what is going on inside you - your thoughts, feelings and your behaviour?
How often do you engage in purposeful self-reflection?
How often do you use this awareness and the results of self-reflection to modify your behaviour?
Social-awareness: Are you aware of who is around you or near you at present; aware of what they are doing; feeling, thinking?
How aware are you generally of others behaviours, motivations, feelings, thoughts?
How aware are you of the impact of your work and behaviour on those immediately around you?
How often do you find yourself altering your own behave as a result of this awareness?
Context-awareness: To what extent are you alert to what is going on around you in the here and now - people, situations, things?
How well controlled is your attentiveness to specific things going on around you that need your careful consideration?
How often do your actions demonstrate a good grasp of what is happening now?
As leaders we can take our awareness one stage further. Thanks to the way the brain functions we can move beyond simple awareness onto the higher plain of meta awareness. This the ability to consciously monitor our awareness and to modify it as a result. This often comes as internal discussions that we have with ourselves:
“I know I have the company finances on my mind but I must give this meeting my full attention and stay alert to how people are reacting as well as what they are saying”
“I’m feeling really bored but I must not switch off to what is happening” “How did they each react to last nights announcement?” “What is making me feel angry at this moment?”
Being meta-aware is staying in touch with your own self, social and context awareness