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Self-Awareness – Are You Listening? presented by WIL Alberta Chapter


Article contributed by Penny Izlakar with the WIL Alberta Chapter


Are you self-aware? Personally, I am, but not always in the moment. According to Tasha Eurich, author of Insights, 95% of people think they’re self-aware, but only 10-15% truly are. So how do you grow the capability of being self-aware? There are so many options, however, I will share five strategies I’ve used to develop my self-awareness over time.


Strategy #1 – Strength assessment and personality test

My MBA wasn’t my first introduction to delving into self-assessments, strengths, and weaknesses, but it was undoubtedly the hardest. After years of working in eight industries as both a people leader and individual contributor, I thought I knew myself. Well, my MBA leadership course taught me otherwise. Of course, we all change over time as we grow, learn, experiment, fail and succeed, but I figured out I had so much more growing to do. That was a hard pill to swallow and I am not ashamed to admit there were plenty of tears during my first residency.


Fast forward to today, I say, “sign me up” for self-assessments! I love discovering and gathering new insights about myself for deeper exploration and growth.


Some well-known assessments include:

  • StrengthsFinder by Clifton Strengths – the full 34 strengths version, one that comes with the book that is written by Tom Rath, which provides insights into your top 5 and a free version that you can test to see if you like the results. Important to note you may get different results if taken multiple times depending on what is going on in your life and how you answer the questions.

    • I have completed this twice over the last year, and a few top strengths have shifted. In December 2021, my top 5 strengths were Relator, Strategic, Arranger, Learner, and Achiever. A year later, I experienced significant personal growth in my career, entered a different head space, and completed a leadership program for women that included Clifton Strengths as part of personal assessments, and my top 5 strengths are now Input, Learner, Achiever, Relator and Arranger.

  • EQ-i2.0 Workplace Assessment provides insights into your emotional intelligence. It offers where you rank compared to over 1M participants from 66 countries in five general areas (self-perception, self-expression interpersonal, decision making and stress management). A certified practitioner conducts the EQ-12.0; thus, I have yet to come across a free version.

    • When I took this assessment a few months ago, flexibility, problem-solving, and stress tolerance were my highest subscales and self-regard, assertiveness, and social responsibility as my lowest (though just shy of the high range). I plan on using this assessment as part of my development plan for 2023 to help shed light on my blind spots and find ways to increase my emotional intelligence.

  • The Myers-Briggs personality test looks at 16 different personality types to provide insights into what drives, inspires, and causes angst, allowing you to take steps to work on areas that might not be as strong.

    • My Myers-Briggs test highlighted that I’m an INFJ – I = Introversion, N = Intuition, F = Feeling, and J = Judging. For those that know me, I guess the “I” for introverts baffles people because I have used the insight to push myself out of my comfort zone. Way to turn a self-perceived weakness on my part into a strength when needed. The results also say that I like to interact with people to create quality and excellence, and can be both assertive and friendly when interacting with others.

  • DISC Personality Test focuses on helping you understand how you communicate.

    • Interestingly, I just did the free test while writing this post, and it states that I am a C/I – Cautious and Inspiring. I am more reserved than outgoing, and some words to describe me are critical thinking, conscientious, diplomatic, and tactful.

  • Enneagram Personality Test focuses on providing you with one of the nine personality types that best fit you.

    • I have read (listened to) the book The 9 Types of Leadership by Beatrice Chestnut, Ph.D., and it was fascinating to learn the various styles. I have yet to take a test.

When you look at various personality tests, evaluate the results with a lens of determining what you want to do with that information. These tests do not define your future, they display how you are showing up in the present.


Strategy #2 – Ask for feedback

I’ve asked how people (peers, leaders, and mentors) see me and the top three things they think of when they hear my name or ask about what I stand for – my personal brand. A book that helped me explore asking and accepting feedback is “Thanks for the Feedback” by Douglas Stone and Shelia Heen. Now, I will admit this can suck, but if you use it as another data point for exploration on your journey to self-awareness.

A quick note – sometimes, you can get too much feedback. When that happens, taking all that feedback in can be hard to address as each person has insights to offer, and not all of them overlap. Even worse, you could get conflicting feedback, but that is another post entirely. Take what you will and leave the rest.

Strategy #3 – Read books and answer the reflection questions

It’s amazing what you can learn by journaling or answering questions raised by another that helps you explore yourself and build more self-awareness. Here are a few books I recommend you consider reading to explore where you are currently and create plans that make sense to you in order to elevate.

  • Mind the Gap – Doug Forsdick, Keri Schwebius, Heather Thomson

  • Multipliers – Liz Wiseman

  • Don’t Blame the Lettuce – Eric Stutzman, Wendy Loewen, Randy Grieser

  • Change your questions, change your life – Marilee G. Adams

  • Twelve and a Half – Gary Vaynerchuk

Try completing the reflection questions at the end of the chapters. I did it for the first time with “Mind the Gap” during my leadership program, and it surprised me how deep I began exploring.

Strategy #4 – Sign-up for some coaching

I must admit that coaching still makes me uncomfortable, but finding the right coach can open the self-awareness doors wide open. I’ve learned so much in the executive, leadership, and career coaching sessions I’ve attended.

  • Career Coaching – check out this article in Harvard Business Review by Marlo Lyons.

  • Leadership Coaching vs Executive Coaching – check out this article by leadstar.

But how do you know if you are ready to be coached? First, check out Brenda Steinberg‘s Harvard Business Review article to help determine if you are ready for coaching.

These are not all of the strategies that you can do to raise your awareness, however, I suggest trying a few to increase your capability. Then, set goals on how to tweak whatever you feel requires adjusting to grow and expand.

My challenge to you is to build self-reflection into your personal development plan, explore areas that might feel a little bit sticky, and test to see what feels right for you.

Happy exploring!

Leader. Efficiency Finder. Mentor. Leadership Advocate. Penny Izlakar



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