Self-awareness and adjustment foster trust with employees

Self-awareness, emotional intelligence, emotional quotient – these concepts stir strong feelings or perhaps are considered to be vague and useless.

But if you own or manage a business, these buzz words – like them or not – are crucial to your organization.

For those not entirely sure what self-awareness encompasses, it is important to start there.

Daniel Goleman, author of “Emotional Intelligence,” describes self-awareness as the ability to know one’s own internal states, preferences and intuitions. Essentially, understanding your moods, preferences, biases, etc.

Perhaps the most important aspect of self-awareness, however, is not just knowing it – it’s what to do with it.

You may better understand this concept if you’ve been to a party and realized that you should be interacting more or, perhaps, realize you need to stop talking so much.

Realizing this information is vital, but if you don’t adjust, then what’s the point? What really determines your ability to be self-aware is just that – the adjustment.

By being self-aware and adjusting behaviors and reactions to your audience, you will be better able to garner its attention and respect. And that is crucial because respect for business leaders is directly correlated to employee engagement.

If respect for the leader increases, so does employee engagement as well as positive organizational outcomes (think performance, profits, customer satisfaction).


So, where’s the proof?

For decades, leaders have been told that soft skills such as self-awareness and emotional intelligence are just as important, if not more so, than traditional, easy-to-measure, technical skills one needs for the job.

Unfortunately, while we’ve touted this information for years, we have had no hard data to back it up.

Until now.


More scientists and neurobiologists are finding evidence supporting what we have intuitively known for years.

Paul Zak, neuro-economist and author of “Trust Factor,” built a model based on scientific research that shows exactly how these soft skills translate to performance.

Repeatedly, Zak has found that interactions laced with self-awareness and emotional intelligence increase oxytocin in the body – the hormone one releases to signal trust and bonding in the brain.

When a leader and his staff have these types of interactions with one another – ones filled with self-awareness and emotional intelligence – oxytocin increases and the level of trust between two individuals grows. The more frequently these types of interactions occur, the more oxytocin increases, and the more the relationship grows.


Think about some of your recent interactions at work.

When your boss messes up, does he or she take ownership and attempt to rectify the situation with the team?

“Hey guys, I know I really messed up there. I realize how that hurt our team and I want to apologize to you for it.”


This is an example of self-awareness and adjusting to the situation.

If it were to occur, what would happen to your levels of trust and respect for your boss?

It’s more than likely your levels of oxytocin would increase, as would your trust in him or her..

You’d feel his commitment to the team and its members as individuals, resulting in a greater bond and level of respect.


What happens if that same boss attempts to hide his mistake or pass the blame onto someone else? Such as: “Well, I was just doing what my boss told me I had to do. I didn’t have a choice.”

How are you feeling then?

It’s likely that you’re questioning his authenticity and truthfulness – diminishing your trust in the relationship.

What you don’t realize is that oxytocin levels are decreasing – signaling to your brain that trust may be absent.


This is extremely important to business leaders since trust and respect directly correlate with organizational goals and outcomes.

Zak has found (through scientific study) that trust, combined with the transcendent purpose of an organization, creates high levels of engagement among employees.

And we are well aware of the benefits of employee engagement: better employee performance and productivity, increased retention rates, commitment to the organization, exceptional customer experiences, etc.


Compared to other initiatives to increase productivity and retention, it costs next to nothing to grow self-awareness and practice it.

Why not learn more about self-awareness and how you can implement these practices into your working relationships?

The work is important and the rewards are great – for your organization and, ultimately, for you.

Cheyenne Bennett is a leadership and talent coach at Compass Point Consulting LLC in Hanover Township, Northampton County, which provides growth and transition consulting to family businesses. She will conduct a leadership development program, starting July 17, titled Leadership Lab 20/20, focusing on the six modes of leadership excellence: know thyself, know others, communication, leadership, high performance teams and culture. Components include Clifton Strengths Finder and Kilmann Conflict Modes and strategies of Patrick Lencioni, James Kouzes and Barry Posner, among others. Leadership teams and emerging leaders are invited. To register for information, or 610-336-0514.

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