Roeder Consulting uses the word Awareness as an umbrella term encompassing three components: self-awareness, awareness of others, and situational awareness. As a highly self-aware person, you understand the importance of organizing your own thoughts and feelings. You are likely someone who is able to recognize and navigate your personal strengths and weaknesses in the interest of your own personal and professional betterment. Additionally, because you are aware of others, you have a knack for not just listening to other people when they’re talking, but also picking up their tone, body language, and facial expressions. You may are likely skilled at reconciling not just what people say but how they say it. And because you have a high degree of situational awareness, you also know how to keep an eye on the ever-changing context of the projects in your organization. The important part to note is that the discipline does not refer to a strong focus in one area, but a holistic understanding of what’s around you, and how your biases may affect your perception of it all.
Some people believe that the word “awareness” sounds like it's referring to something “soft”. Others believe it's too a quality abstract to affect an organization's bottom line. However, research shows that awareness is one of the single most important skills a project manager can possess. Mastering the three kinds of awareness is the first step to mastering the remaining Six Disciplines. After all, it's hardly useful to be persistent with a project if you aren't aware of what's going on in that project. Without proper awareness, acting on many of the other Six Disciplines could do more harm than help.
A high score in the Awareness category indicates that you actively exercise the three kinds of awareness in the workplace: self-awareness, awareness of others, and situational awareness. You may do this by taking time out of your day to check in with yourself via an organized activity like meditating or journaling, or by something as simple as scheduling time in your day for yourself to relax, review and fully digest the day’s events. Below are some examples of exercises to improve your awareness:
- Expand your field of vision. It’s easy to go through life focusing only on what is affecting us in the present. This tunnel vision is especially common when people are overworked and overwhelmed. However, when we’re concentrating on just the few details directly in front of us, we miss out on the wealth of surrounding context. We can end up overlooking the why of the day’s events, and can even fail to realize how our personal thoughts and actions could be shaping our day. As you go through your work, remind yourself to take a one or two minute mental break every so often to take in more details than you usually do. Intentionally look for details in your environment you generally wouldn’t give a second thought, and check in with yourself mentally and emotionally. This may be uncomfortable and feel unnatural at first, but it’s a reliable way to exercise your external and internal awareness.
- Ask yourself ‘why?’. Have you ever interacted with a child who, in response to seemingly everything, just loves to ask “but why?”? While this could be anything from endearing to distracting, it’s good for your awareness to practice this with yourself. Before acting on a decision, pause and ask yourself “Why?” Think of a solid response that you would agree with if someone else relayed it to you. Then, ask yourself again – “but why?” Provide yourself with clarity on the importance of your decision. For a third and final time, ask yourself “but why?”. Think about your own emotions and biases that may be influencing the decision. Being self-aware means knowing and understanding your motives, acknowledging when they are or are not reasonable, and having clear-headed confidence in your actions.
- "The next time you go into a meeting, leave time to be aware of the people in the room and the situation. Focus on verbal and nonverbal behavior of the people in the room. Do not focus only on the content of your report. It may be too difficult for you to focus both on your presentation and on the people in the room. In this case, ask someone else to deliver your report while you scan the room for any details about how the people are receiving your project. This exercise will help you turn awareness into a habit. It will train you to dedicate part of your consciousness to focusing on the people and the situation while the rest of your consciousness continues to execute the work plan.” - A Sixth Sense for Project Management, Tres Roeder.
For more information about how to improve your awareness, see A Sixth Sense for Project Management, pg 43.