The Self-Awareness Guy

12 Ways to Increase Your Self-Awareness

Here are some practical ways to increase your self-awareness starting today:

  • Make a list of the things you do well.
  • Think about how you might use your natural talents to live authentically.
  • Make a list of the things you do that might benefit from some improvement.
  • Think about what you can do right now to become wiser and healthier.
  • Decide on one thing you want to improve about yourself and do one small task each day to work on making it happen.
  • Keep an open mind about learning new things and changing.
  • Treat yourself and others well.
  • Be completely honest with yourself about the things you do that lead in a positive direction and the ones that hold you back.
  • Learn how to be comfortable with all your feelings.
  • Work on healing your hurts.
  • Decide that you’re going to live consciously.
  • Listen to your inner voice.

You don’t have to do all these things at once, try doing one at a time until it feels natural and move on to the next. The idea is to get to know yourself really well and live a life that reflects who you are deep inside. What will you do to increase your self-awareness?


8 Tips to Improve Your Communication Skills

Have you ever suffered through a long conversation where the other person spent the whole time talking at you? Our society conditions us to believe that we need to talk a lot and fill up all the free space in the universe with words in order to demonstrate competence or credibility. This encourages people to speak up first, continue speaking and then speak some more at the first sign of any lull. We end up enduring conversations that are complete traffic jams of people all trying to outdo each other with bigger and better stories and facts.

We’ve all interacted with people who seem to be in love with the sound of their voice and rarely let others into the conversation. There are many reasons for this type of behavior but the main one is that they aren’t aware of any other way of communicating. What they might not realize is that communication is over 90% non-verbal, which means that talking is just a small part of what we’re supposed to be doing.

Excellent communication begins with us. We each have the ability to either open the doors to a two-way exchange of information or slam them shut. We have a choice as to whether we spend our time spitting out our stories rather than gaining more insight into others’ experiences. Think about your own communication style: Do you talk more or do you listen more? What would happen if you shifted your style just slightly?

Highly effective communicators understand that getting their point across is often as much about understanding someone else’s perspective as it is putting one’s own input into the mix. Here are some tips to help you add to your communication skills:

1. Try to listen more than you talk.

2. Ask open-ended questions and give the other person time to answer.

3. Please stay away from questions that lead the conversation in a certain direction or only lead to a yes or no answer.

4. Try not to think of the next thing that you want to say.

5. Avoid thinking about the perfect rebuttal or your next magnificent story.

6. Allow people to say what they want and give them the space to do so.

7. Listen actively. Search online under “active listening.”

8. Did I mention listening?

We spend so much time talking that we ignore the most important element of communication. Listening opens up amazing new doors we never knew existed when we were flapping our gums. It’s incredible what we learn when we take the time to really listen to someone. Suddenly we understand people better and can make decisions based on rich, detailed information. We avoid misunderstandings and we connect with people on a deeper level. People also tend to trust us more because they can confide in us without being steamrollered.

In the end, it is up to us how we communicate. Excellent communicators understand the value of listening and use it to communicate more effectively. Listening improves our interactions and allows us to breathe. We don’t have to fill up every space and constantly think of witty things to say. We get to learn all kinds of interesting information about others and relax more. Try the ideas we’ve mentioned and continue adding to your excellent communication skills.


5 Tips to Be an Innovative Leader

Leaders have an amazing potential to make a difference in people’s lives. Even our most basic actions can significantly impact clients, create new opportunities, change the world, or bring everything to a screeching halt. We personally choose whether we are leaders who make things happen or get in the way. Let’s look at two leadership approaches that are commonly found in the real world: stagnation and innovation.

Leaders who choose stagnation find themselves continually endeavoring to maintain the status quo. They are often very caring and deeply committed to their organization but do the same things year after year. They cherish tradition and are comfortable with the staff, programs, mission, board, donors and volunteers they’ve had for years. There is little incentive for change in their organization because everything has run the same way for a long time.

An alternative approach focuses on innovation. Leaders who value innovation put systems in place that anticipate and welcome new challenges. They view change as an opportunity rather than a threat. Their organizations tend to encourage finding new ways of doing things and reward creative thinking. They benefit from being nimble and proactive rather than reactive.

The impact of each of these approaches on our clients is huge because we serve them differently if our leadership style is oriented toward stagnation or innovation. Leaders know intellectually that it’s positive to welcome change and encourage innovation but there isn’t a specific template for how to do it. Here are some practical tips to help you continue being an innovative leader.

1. Think outside the box and actually do it. Embrace a philosophy where you constantly seek extraordinary ideas and approaches. You will be better prepared to deal with the issues that come your way.

2. Help people shine. Find out what people do best and let them do it. Get out of the way and watch them grow. Be available if they ask for help but otherwise just let them be great.

3. Give up the need to control things. Let go of power and status and the need to be in charge. Invite new thoughts and perspectives. Remember that the cause you work for is far greater than any one person.

4. Practice excellent listening skills. Immerse yourself in what other people say. They will tell you what you’re doing right or what needs help. Trust that your clients will tell you what they need and your staff will also teach you a lot.

5. Make some new friends and work with them. Partner with others and learn from their experiences. Forge lasting relationships that merge your talents and energy so you can serve even greater numbers of people.

Innovative leaders touch people because they know that leadership isn’t about them, it’s about everyone else. Think of a leader who made a remarkably positive impact on you. They likely took the spotlight off them and let you bask in the glow. The leaders who consistently achieve the best results are those who inspire others to shine.

A major benefit of innovative leadership is that it allows us to do more with less effort. We help our clients more efficiently because we think globally rather than according to some set script. We are more attentive to their needs and are willing to help simply because it makes us and them feel good. We go the extra mile because we are not afraid of the turns in the road.

Innovative leadership helps us let go of stagnation and start breathing fresh air. When we live without limits it opens doors of opportunity. If we shed our fear of change and chaos we get to see the world as a place where anything can happen. Without any boundaries, we are capable of achieving spectacular results. As leaders, we each have the potential to make a dramatic difference in someone else’s life. Which path will you choose?


5 Ideas to Increase Your Nonprofit’s Visibility

I’ve worked with many nonprofit leaders who say things like, “I wish people knew about what we’re doing,” or “We’re the best kept secret.” There are many amazing organizations that do wonderful work but nobody knows about them, usually because they don’t have a plan. Here are five ways you can increase your organization’s visibility and reach the people who genuinely appreciate what you do.

Define Who You Are

Many organizations try to attract prospective donors or supporters without first being clear on what they do. Defining who you are means knowing what your mission is and being able to communicate it effortlessly to others. Take the time to create a definition that you, your staff and your board all understand. A clear definition builds a strong foundation so you can connect with people who value what you do. Think in terms of the ways you really matter to people and make a difference rather than long lists of data or accomplishments. Fine tune your definition so that it impacts people on a deeper level.

Build Relationships

Nobody will know you exist if you don’t tell them. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on advertising; you can do it by building relationships with key individuals and groups. Define your audience and begin getting to know people in those circles. Get recommendations of new people to talk with from your existing contacts. Use your current contacts to connect with possible new supporters. Get to know local media so you can be a go-to expert in your field of expertise or talk about your programs. Connect with other nonprofits so you can both raise your profile.

Use Social Media

What if I told you there is a way to connect with people right now who want to support your cause and help you spread the word and that it doesn’t cost a penny? I’ve heard nonprofit leaders fret about safety issues or content management with social media as they let a gigantic advertising opportunity slip between their fingers. Social media websites like Facebook and Twitter allow you to build an identity, increase your base of supporters and connect with people you may have never otherwise met and who have access to resources and contacts that can benefit your organization.

Make Connections with People Who Get It

The idea in making connections is to get to know the people who really “get it” about what you do rather than chasing those who never will or sending out random publicity hoping someone will bite. Take some time to define who your ideal supporter is. Who is your ideal donor, board member, partner or client? Once you understand who these people are you can start building relationships with them. Spend less time wishing you could connect with everyone and more time figuring out who really wants to help you. The people who currently support you are the best source of additional contacts and ideas for other people who also might be interested in participating in some way.

Design Smart Events

Many nonprofits spend a lot of time, money and people power designing big events that net proportionally few dollars for the amount of effort they require. What if you could host smaller events that target specific people in more meaningful ways? Think about what you could do to really show your stakeholders what your organization does. Plan events that cost you no money and don’t be afraid to create smaller events that mean more to important people rather than huge happenings where you hope someone will be inspired to donate or participate in some way.

Increasing the visibility of your nonprofit doesn’t have to be overly complex or difficult. Take some time to define what your organization does and who values your efforts and you’ll be on your way to sharing the great things you do with those who matter. Better yet, you’ll connect with the people who really care about what you do.


10 Effective Workplace Communication Tips

My clients often ask me how to communicate more effectively. We all are capable of effective communication, we just haven’t learned how to actually do it. Here are some basic tips on how to get started.

1. Set up an atmosphere for communicating. Everyone gets to say what they want, nobody is punished, and everyone is safe to say what they want with no fear of retribution. It’s important to set up an environment where people actually can participate freely without having to worry that it will affect their jobs. You can’t just say you have an open door policy; you have to demonstrate that you really will follow through.

2. Everyone agrees to listen and only person talks at a time. When someone speaks other people simply listen. There should be no advice giving, rebuttals or contradicting. Everyone gets a chance to say what they want. Stick to these guidelines in order to create an atmosphere where people respect each other and commit to listening to one another without the usual chaos that ensues in regular meetings.

3. Everyone agrees that there is no such thing as a wrong comment or dumb question. Think about how you feel when your point of view is crushed. It’s very important, and productive, to validate people’s input. It doesn’t really matter whether they are wrong or right and you don’t have to implement their ideas. The point is simply to help people feel important by accepting their comments.

4. Everyone agrees to talk about the same amount of time. No one person monopolizes the conversation. No one person is more important than another. Level the playing field by eliminating the demoralizing effect of one person standing there talking endlessly while everyone else falls asleep. Make sure everyone has a voice.

5. We agree to communicate with each other respectfully, with a calm tone of voice, without harsh language and with no derogatory comments. Louder isn’t always better or more effective. It’s much more enjoyable to talk calmly and give yourself a chance to relax instead of always being agitated.

6. We agree that any information that is communicated will not be used against someone or to make them feel bad. We promise to not use information to hurt other people and that we will be a workplace that values individuals’ input.

7. Keep it simple. Say what you mean, say it briefly and constructively. People fall in love with the sound of their own voices and forget that other people have equally important things to say. Say what you want to say and then get out of the way. Practice saying things briefly, you will eventually get good at it and be able to devote your time to more enjoyable pursuits.

8. Leave any personal agendas out of the meeting. When people come in with a predetermined outcome in mind it tends to derail the whole group. Keep an open mind and redirect the conversation when you notice that someone is trying to settle a score or is aggressively advocating for a personal issue.

10. Keep it positive. Communication ideally builds a positive atmosphere that promotes solutions rather than only gripe sessions. Remember to model positive behavior so that everyone follows your lead. Keep the tone upbeat and people will have a hard time staying cranky.

Once you follow all of these concepts you will be on your way to communicating effectively. Each one takes practice and commitment from all parties involved. Practice each area (one at a time) until you master it. At first, you will notice resistance and people may even think you are nuts. Over time people will enjoy the new, calmer way of doing things and you will get more work done. When you have mastered all of them you will experience the peace of mind that comes from communicating effectively.