6 Ways to Boost Your Self-Awareness (Hint: It’s Good for Business)

To start building a process in self-reflection, try this: Use these starter questions to reflect on the results of a recently completed project or conversation. Bring a mindset of curiosity, openness and honesty to your answers. Adapt the questions to fit your situation.

reset your mind self awareness in business
  1. What went well (with this conversation, task or meeting)?

  2. What could I have done to have made it work even better?

  3. Did I have unexamined assumptions (regarding the information I had, or about a person or situation)?

  4. Who else should have been included here and how might I do that in the future?

  5. Who needed to be appreciated, and for what?

  6. What follow up is needed now and by whom?

Next, Try This

After answering the questions, reflect on what you wrote. Did you discover anything that surprised you? Or something that you hadn’t previously thought of? Did you get any new insights into your own behavior or have a new perspective about someone else’s? Whatever you did, congratulations for engaging in the process! You now have the foundation for a self-reflection discipline.

Look for opportunities to use the process whenever and wherever you can. Adapt the questions to fit the situation. When you’re ready, find an opportunity to try it out in your team environment. And remember to have a conversation about the process itself.

There are lots of opportunities to use this skill -- even at home! Remember that supporting others, and particularly your direct reports, in developing their skill in self-reflection can have huge payoffs, helping them and you become more self-aware. And, just like anything else, it takes time to cultivate a new habit, so have a patient heart -- with yourself and others!

When you give this a try, let me know how it went. I’d really like to hear from you!

Potent strategies for turning conflict aversion into effective conversations


What is conflict aversion? Broadly stated, conflict aversion is an indirect way of dealing with an issue or a person to avoid confrontation. Conflict averse people tend to avoid conflict at all costs and have inner dialogues that rarely get voiced – much to their detriment. Consequently, their viewpoint is usually not represented in situations and discussions they may care passionately about.As coaches, we find conflict aversion at the core of many situations our clients are working through. We believe this is an important topic because If not managed, conflict aversion will likely have a negative impact on relationships and outcomes at some point in one's life or career. When people who have something to say don’t join the conversation, good ideas may never come to light and unique perspectives will not be shared. Even worse: assumptions are inevitably made from the various parties’ perspectives and the environment becomes ripe for misunderstandings, resentment, and further disengagement that can lead to project or program failure.

Conflict aversion is not rare. Many people we’ve coached with over the years report conflict aversion to some degree. You might wonder why a person is conflict averse. Often it’s a reaction to the environment and a question of safety. When leaders encourage competition among team members, the intent might be to motivate or encourage creativity and output. But the outcome more likely discourages conflict averse team members because it threatens safety, trust, and relationships. Conflict aversion may develop from experience or it may be temperament –  an aspect of one’s personality that runs deep. No matter where it comes from, you don’t need to stay there.

So, if conflict aversion sometimes gets the better of you, take heart. There are effective strategies you can use – whether you are a conflict averse person or whether you are working with one. The end goal is to improve relationships and outcomes and this can be done by improving your communication.

Okay, so how do you do that?

Being conflict averse is an emotional reaction. It’s a feeling of impending doom when you think about having to speak up because you have a sense of what will happen. The words aren’t even there to say because you may be too nervous to talk. Thoughts are running through your head like, “I’ll sound stupid,” “No one will listen, they’ll just argue,” “I’ll look bad.” Know this is common –  even and especially for super smart people.

The first step is to take control of your nervous system by breathing slow, deep breaths (no one has to know that you’re doing this). This will help calm you. Next, ask for clarification from the other person. Repeat back exactly what they say. People love this because it tells them that you were listening and you heard them. Example: “What I think I heard you say was….Is that correct?” This give you further opportunity to calm yourself as you continue to breathe and slow the pace, reflecting back what you hear. You created a conversation rather than a confrontation. How great is that!

Now that you’ve calmed yourself by using the above process, you might consider a few additional strategies available to you in Back Pocket Coach. One that comes to mind immediately is Strategy #20, the powerful and simple question, “May I ask you a question?” This is a great multi-purpose strategy. And in this particular example, using the question leads you further into the conversation in a polite and non-confrontational way. You show up as curious and interested in what the other person has to say. And you are taking all the confrontation out of it. Before you know it, your conversation will be proceeding smoothly.

Know someone who’s dealing with conflict aversion? Share these strategies.

Back Pocket Coach Strategy #20: May I ask a question?


Have you ever been in a meeting that has gotten off track and no one, including the meeting organizer, seems to be able to get everyone refocused? Or you’re having a 1-on-1 conversation with your supervisor or colleague about a specific topic and, before you know it, the conversation has veered off course and devolved into something completely irrelevant? There is a brilliantly simple method you can use to refocus a meeting or conversation in a way that respects the people involved and, at the same time, gets everyone back on topic. Simply ask the person responsible for the digression: “May I ask a question?” In a meeting an example of a question could relate to a specific agenda topic. As in, “Earlier you mentioned…which I found extremely relevant to our programmatic goals. Could you elaborate on this?”

When you ask this question, several things happen. First, you are asking permission to enter the conversation, which respects the person who is speaking. Next, asking the question implies your interest in his input. And, if you do this in a meeting, it can also serve to elicit participation from someone who has not yet spoken. Ask the question, then follow with, “I’d like to hear Bob’s thoughts.”

Try “May I ask a question?” You will be amazed at how well this works. And it will also strengthen your connection with the other person.

Strategy #20 “May I ask a question?” | www.BackPocketCoach.com | @RossCoach | @CoachDianeB

How are you doing as a leader? Find out here.

how are you doing as a leader

Being an effective leader hinges on your ability to be self-aware. Self-awareness is foundational in developing your emotional intelligence. We’ve created a brief individual leadership assessment to provide you with an opportunity to reflect on your leadership. The assessment is based in part on Patrick Lencioni’s work in The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.

We encourage you to take a few minutes to complete this self-assessment. It could provide you with valuable insight on how you engage with others and manage yourself related to these five key behaviors. Most important, you can apply the insights immediately.

Answer these five questions from the perspective of those who work with you: supervisors, board members, direct reports, colleagues, customers, and any other key stakeholders.

Be brutally honest with yourself and reflect on what you learn.

Use the following numbers to best describe how you believe others would rate you in each area: 3 = Usually  2 = Sometimes  1 = Rarely

  1. Fosters Trust: _____

I create an environment that builds and fosters trust. This means my colleagues, direct reports, and others know they can be open with me about miscalculations and challenges without fear or harsh judgment. I cultivate openness, honesty, and appreciation, because I know it builds trust and improves our learning and performance as a team.

  1. Embraces Conflict: _____

I encourage dialogue and discussion that includes working through conflict and challenging situations. I do not engage or promote conflict for the sake of argument. I actively cultivate an environment that supports people in having difficult conversations and learning from differing opinions.

  1. Demonstrates Commitment: _____

I demonstrate full commitment to our people and to our work. My team members know that they can count on me. I am fully committed to developing excellence in our people and in achieving results.

  1. Inspires Accountability: _____

I take full accountability for my responsibilities and my actions. I model this behavior for others. I also know that without clear expectations, I can’t expect people to be held accountable for results.

  1. Delivers Results: _____

I am focused on results without leaving human wreckage in my wake. I encourage operating collaboratively, keeping the focus on the end goal and delivering on results.

Calculate your total score by adding up your ratings for questions 1 through 5: ______

  • If your score is between 13 and 15, wonderful job. You are at the top as a leader. To stay there takes work. Select one of the five areas (Trust, Conflict, Commitment, Accountability, or Results), and keep that as your focus for the next month. Notice what you learn about yourself and in working with others.
  • If your score is between 9 and 13, you’re doing well overall but not maintaining this consistently. Take a look at where you rated the lowest and identify a few actions you might take to strengthen this area. You might consider talking with direct reports and colleagues for additional feedback to gain more insight into how they see you as a leader and to help you formulate your action plan.  
  • If your score is between 5 and 8, you might be missing opportunities to engage your direct reports, colleagues, and others in ways that support teamwork and high performance. Your willingness to take this assessment demonstrates your interest in being an even more effective  leader. Use this as an opportunity to strengthen yourself. Consider working with a mentor or coach to support you in your leadership development.

We hope this quick self-assessment has given you some new insight into your areas of strength and opportunities for development. If you are serious about your leadership development and want to enhance it further, contact us at info@backpocketcoach.com or call us at 303-284-3333.

In the meantime, stay alert to how you are being and behaving with others. One way to squeeze even more value from this short self-assessment is to conduct interviews with your team using these questions.

We (Diane Brennan and Alexandra Ross) offer a depth of experience as leadership / executive coaches. We specialize in working with executives, managers and teams who have learned the value of adding leadership development into the mix to support their success. So whether it’s executive coaching, teambuilding, or a combination, we can help you amplify the results you want.

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Appreciation is the secret sauce -- now more than ever.

Appreciation Several months ago when we were preparing to write this blog on appreciation, we went on Twitter and entered #AppreciationPolitics, thinking it would be wonderful to find an uplifting story from the political area that we could write about — something that would give us a reason to wax poetic and get a glow on.

Well, not so much. Twitter reported: “No results.” What?! Of all the hundreds of thousands of topics on Twitter that garner interest and are share-worthy, there was nothing.

Our spontaneous reaction was to burst out laughing. But, unfortunately this is no laughing matter. Why? Because appreciation is a crucial component for happiness and successful relationships. There is much research that points to appreciation being the number one thing that people want most at work and in life.

Given the recent episodes of violence around the world and this weekend in Orlando, it is more important than ever to find a way to open our hearts and appreciate others -- especially if those others view things differently than we do. Appreciation is not about being a Pollyanna or turning a blind eye to bad behavior or worse.

Voltaire, 18th Century French philosopher and prominent figure of the French Enlightenment, powerfully articulated the value of appreciation when he said,“Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.”

Imagine the kind of world we could create together if we were all guided by this philosophy.

Considering this on an organizational level, we know from experience that both team effectiveness and a leader’s effectiveness closely correlate with a culture of real appreciation. Maybe you’ve had the experience of walking into a room where a team is meeting and were able feel  the appreciation and respect team members have for one another; it’s palpable.

And the reverse is just as true. Working in a team of people who are angry, hostile and totally lacking in appreciation for one another is miserable. It’s a no-brainer to know which team will be the high performing one. And have the happiest, most satisfied team members.

So while we’re probably not going to heal politics and violence in the world, we do have the ability to make a difference right where we are — within our professional and personal lives. A kind word and a gesture of sincere appreciation can go a long way.

Remember this: In appreciating others we acknowledge their value in the situation or relationship. Challenge yourself to notice what you can appreciate about someone, even (and especially) if it’s difficult. Here are a few simple guidelines: 1) be authentic: say what it means to you; 2) be timely: do it now; 3) make it a habit: look for opportunities to appreciate another.

Who will you appreciate today?

For help in creating a culture of appreciation within your organization, contact Diane Brennan & Alexandra Ross at info@backpocketcoach.com 

Updated from original post March 20, 2016 www.backpocketcoach.com

Download Back Pocket Coach for free, June 8 & 9

Free download for Back Pocket Coach- 33 Effective Strategies for Work & LifeAvailable Wednesday, June 8 - Thursday, June 9 on Amazon. Click here for your free download of Back Pocket Coach: 33 Effective Communication Strategies for Work & Life!  No matter what your role in an organization, Back Pocket Coach will complement your existing tools and strategies to help you create seriously effective outcomes.

Leaders and Managers: Who doesn’t want to manage a team that is known for its high performance and its collaborative spirit? Or, be part of an organization where you feel valued for your contributions and enjoy coming to work? Back Pocket Coach’s powerful communication strategies can help you get there.

Human Resources / Organizational Development Professionals: Back Pocket Coach can be used to support training and development curricula. The modular nature of the strategies offers flexibility for training events that range from 30 minutes to a full day. Back Pocket Coach can also be useful for internal coaches and human resources business partners in meetings with customer stakeholders.

External Coaches: Experienced executive and business coaches know that inspiring their clients to adopt a learning mindset will help them go further, faster. Back Pocket Coach offers 33 strategies to support your work with your clients. It is a concise, effective learning tool that can be used in coaching sessions and can support ongoing learning and development with practice between sessions.

Here’s what people are saying about Back Pocket Coach...

A Private Coach--in your back pocket: “We all have situations in our business lives when we wish we could call someone and get coached through the problem and best response. Back Pocket Coach does that, and helps prepare us ahead of time for situations that might arise. Alexandra and Diane bring their considerable Executive Coaching experience to this tool to help in four areas: One-on-One Conversations, Conversations On-the-Fly, In Meetings and Self Reflection. My favorite: "What Outcome Do You Want?" It works not only for sticky business situations, meetings but also in personal life. Who doesn't want vetted, successful communication strategies in their life?” -- M.A., Denver

Convenient and easy to use: “Convenient and easy access to very helpful tips on navigating difficult situations and conversations. Situations that require immediate action and responses do not allow me to run back to my office and find the right approach for handling the situation. Having this material in my iPhone, easily accessible and easy to navigate makes it a very useful tool.” -- R.G., California

Concise and Targeted Coaching is Ready-to-Use: “Find experienced, concise and targeted coaching in this extremely user-friendly tool. I've not seen anything like it before. I love this ready-to-use coaching for "just in time" situations as well as for contemplating more deeply. As a trainer, I plan to use these cards in various training environments to help people achieve better results in relationships at work and beyond. Their website blog generously provides even more perspective to some common issues. Their years of experience show up in their style of clear, upbeat, and empathetic communication.” D.W., Boulder

Back Pocket Coach is available for all Apple and Android mobile devices and can be easily accessed using the free Kindle app.

Click here to download your free copy of Back Pocket Coach on Amazon now!

For more information visit us at www.BackPocketCoach.com

And follow us on Twitter at @CoachDianeB and @RossCoach

Back Pocket Coach Strategy #13: I may need to renegotiate our agreement.

Back Pocket Coach Strategy #13 I may need to negotiate our agreement.We’ve all had the experience of agreeing to something we were not able to deliver on. It’s a horrible feeling when you disappoint another person, not to mention disappoint yourself. Breaking your agreement could have happened for a legitimate reason. Or perhaps you miscalculated the time required to complete a task. You may have even believed that saying no was not an option, so said yes when you should have discussed it first.

Regardless of the reason, breaking agreements can strain even the best relationships and impugn your credibility. The good news is, there is a simple strategy you can use to effectively manage the agreements you make.

First, understand that agreements are verbal contracts, so take seriously every agreement you make. Next, only agree to what you know you can deliver. That said, sometimes an unforeseen conflict can make this impossible. If this happens, renegotiate your agreement immediately! This gives the other person a chance to look for different options, and it preserves your standing as a conscientious person of integrity.

Finally, the next time someone makes a request of you, don’t feel compelled to say yes on the spot. Try this: Let the person know that you would like to accommodate their request, and that you first need to review your current commitments to make sure you can confidently agree to their request.

Doing this telegraphs the message that you take your commitments seriously and that you are someone they can count on.

Strategy #13 | www.BackPocketCoach.com | @CoachDianeB | @RossCoach

Back Pocket Coach Strategy #7: May I give you some feedback?

Back Pocket Coach Strategy # 7May I give you some feedback-Delivering feedback is not an easy process, and it is even more challenging when the message is potentially negative.  Just the thought of this type of conversation commonly evokes emotional turmoil for both the giver and receiver. Frustrations with an employee, boss, colleague, or other that are not addressed can lead to apathy and an “it’s never going to change” mindset that demoralizes you and others. And, if the situation has existed for awhile, you may need more than one conversation to resolve it. Also consider that the individual may have no clue there is a concern, because no one has really given him feedback. You or someone else might have hinted, but how clear was the message, and how self-aware is he?

In their book Thanks for the Feedback (2014), Stone and Heen encourage “creating pull” for receiving feedback as opposed to pushing through the resistance. The authors reinforce the value of creating pull for one’s own reflection and personal development.

Pulling or drawing someone into a conversation makes it easier to engage. It is also a smoother transition into a feedback conversation with them. So how can you deliver feedback with more ease and engage the individual in the conversation?

  1. Check your emotional readiness. What do you need to be at your best and ready?
  2. Create a safe environment for the conversation. Avoid open areas where others might overhear the exchange.
  3. Begin with the question, “May I give you some feedback?” Asking permission invites the individual into dialogue and offers him a choice to participate. It is a respectful way to gain agreement to proceed with the conversation, and it helps the person be more open to hearing what you have to say.

Remember, asking a question like “May I give you some feedback?” is an invitation into a conversation. When we give people a choice to engage, they will be more likely to participate and actually hear what we have to say.

Strategy #7 | www.BackPocketCoach.com | @CoachDianeB | @RossCoach

Strategy # 8: Can we continue this conversation later?

another interruptionHave you ever been in the middle of a critical deadline when someone stops by to chat? Or racing to your next meeting and you hear, “Do you have a minute?” as your energy drains at the thought of yet another unexpected conversation. It’s difficult to say anything other than “sure” when you really want to scream, “No, can’t you see I’m busy!” When challenged with how to respond to interruptions, clients often refer to an open door policy - meaning immediate availability, no matter what. The all or nothing thinking that says, there is no other choice than to stop what I’m doing and handle the situation. Feeling no choice in the matter shuts down brain processing and sometimes even the ability to respond with anything other than the habitual “sure.”

How do you excuse yourself from the interruption while maintaining your relationship and rapport with the individual? You might say: “I’d like to continue this conversation, and right now isn’t going to work. When are you next available to talk?” Think about the typical interruptions in your day, and consider a few variations of “Can we continue this conversation later?” You might practice these with trusted colleagues or a coach so you’re prepared to respond in a way that supports positive relationships and rapport and sets the tone for mutual respect instead of frustration.

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Strategy #8 “Can we continue this conversation later?” www.BackPocketCoach.com 

Reclaim your power now.

Business woman flexing her muscles to show power, isolated on white background Power is an emotion-evoking word. We might admire or fear power, depending upon the context. We hope to have power for what matters — to influence others and to make an impact. That said, power takes on many forms.

The idea of giving away our power — especially unwittingly — is not a welcome thought. Yet no matter how seasoned or accomplished we may be, we all have the ability to get triggered into giving our power away at some time or another.

Some ways we give up our power:

  • Your boss or supervisor goes on the offensive and you get intimidated and just shut down.
  • You are given more than you can manage in the time allotted and you did not negotiate — now all you can do is complain.
  • A colleague is not carrying his weight on a project and it’s putting stress on you. You don’t know how to talk to him, so you don’t. You end up working harder and resenting it.

The common denominator in these scenarios is that you’re out of dialogue. (One-way conversations are not dialogue.) Being in dialogue is empowering for everyone. So how do you get back into dialogue?

The kind of power we’re talking about here only manifests in two-way communication.

When you’re in dialogue, you’re in power.

The following two strategies will help you get and stay in dialogue:

Back Pocket Coach Strategy #4: Help me understand...

You think you understand someone and later find you misinterpreted! “Help me understand” is a way of making sure you are both on the same page. It can also help you remain calm, rather than be hijacked by an emotional reaction. For example: “Help me understand the purpose behind this process.” “Help me understand” also lets the person know you value what he says.

Back Pocket Coach Strategy #12: What expectations do you have of me?

Whether we realize it or not, we all bring different expectations to the table. Instead of assuming you are both on the same page regarding, for example, who’s going to do what by when, clarify! By asking this simple question, you are implicitly conveying your commitment and interest in being aligned with what needs to be done.

We would all ideally like to respond with strategies like these in the perfect moment. But sometimes you miss the perfect moment. If this happens, don’t beat yourself up. Instead, schedule a revisit of the conversation with your supervisor, colleague, client or others, using one of the above strategies. Doing so speaks to your strength and actually gives you the ability to fortify the relationship because it shows that you cared enough to think about it.

As one of our colleagues so aptly put it, “Relationships are built one conversation at a time.” Now that’s powerful.

Get Back Pocket Coach on Amazon here!