Recently I was working with on a consulting project for a growing company and the CEO asked me to spend some time working on leadership skills with one of his newer leaders. This person “Bob” came from a labor industry and had little schooling and little exposure to leadership training. When we met the first thing I became aware of was the Bob was coachable.
He was eager to learn, excited and willing to acknowledge where he needed skill development. I conducted a leadership assessment with him and we determined that he would gain the most value from working on his ‘awareness’ skills.
I asked Bob to give me an example of a recent conflict he could remember having and it could be work or home. He gave an example of a co-worker who he felt was as, ‘ an idiot’ because she did not give him an answer on a specific request.
I explained to Bob that as communicators we are responsible for how we send a message and that our own filter or mindset determines how we will communicate. So if Bob thinks his co-worker is an idiot then guess how he is going to communicate with her.
I went on to help Bob see that in every interaction there are four levels of awareness and as we work towards the 4th level of awareness we find ourselves spending more time in solution than in frustration.
Here are the four levels of awareness that I have discovered and that I shared with Bob.
Level 1- We see situations and people as the problem. We think in a linear fashion about behavior so for example, “She ignored me” with level 1 awareness we often feel like a victim or that everyone else needs to change. We might say things to ourselves such as, “she needs to learn how to pay attention” or, “he should know better”. The challenge with level 1 awareness is that it is always about being a victim or feeling trapped and it is a powerless level that leads to pain and disappointment the majority of the time.
Level 2- We see situations and people as an opportunity to learn. We realize that when we are in a calm state we tend to be more open and we are willing to communicate in a way that builds a movement forward. We focus on understanding ourselves better and learning to understand others better as well. We still have challenging interactions but we begin to look for the learning. For example if our request is being ignored we go into internal query with, “why is it bugging me so much that I feel like my request is being ignored?” We then work towards getting past feeling like a victim and we move to a deeper understanding.Level 2 feels more empowering.
Level 3- We see our situations and people as if we are looking in a mirror. This is awareness of awareness. With level 3 awareness we have created a deeper sense of self and inner safety where we can look at how someone else’s behavior is a direct reflection of us in some way. For example if someone is ignoring you a level 3 response would be first to use internal dialogue that acknowledges how this makes you feel, “I am really ticked at Pat right now because I am feeling ignored” and then, “what does this remind me of?” and then “where in my behavior do I ignore other people?”. The answers to these deeper questions then become a compass for relating to the other person. You acknowledge how you are feeling, you question what it is triggering and then you ‘own’ the behavior. Leaders who use level 3 awareness have high levels of daily satisfaction in their work because they see themselves as creators of their reality.
Level 4- We see our interactions and life patterns from meta-cognition or a ‘knowing about knowing”. Knowing is the deepest of awareness because it is an integration of what you ‘know’ that has become how you behave. You find yourself seeing people and situations from an observant place of openness and curiosity. No one is an enemy, no one is out to get us, everyone is a piece of the bigger picture and there are gifts even in conflict. When we are level 4 leaders our ability to see what’s really going on and to speak to and reveal the authentic truth of the situation allows us to create almost magical resolutions. Things that appeared so stuck and unsolvable at level 1 become absurdly easy to solve. Leaders with level 4 awareness are ‘wise’ with a calm confidence and they exude trust and safety to those they interact with. They are focused, happy and inspire others by their example.
After our coaching session Bob expressed his thanks for the awareness concepts. He realized that he was at level 1 and we are working together to help him move towards level 4. I am inspired by his commitment to grow.
I am so grateful that my work as a consultant, coach and speaker has continued to drive me to be better, to increase my levels of awareness. I strive daily to be a level 4 leader and nothing gives me more joy than to help others move through to achieve the peace and happiness that comes with level 4 awareness.