“Self Awareness” Does Your Potential Executive Hire Have It?

Each year I debrief leadership assessment results with hundreds of C-Suite candidates as an Executive Coach & Consultant at N2Growth. Assessments are an excellent tool for understanding a candidate’s self-awareness regarding their personality traits and help identify how one is “naturally inclined” to act, based on five inherent attributes evaluated and measured.

Recently I ran across a recent study published in the American Psychological Association Journal of Personality and Social Psychology that made me think about the connections between being a successful C-Suite executive and having positive cognitive health. The research found that those inclined to stress easily (high neuroticism), and an unorganized mindset (low conscientiousness), are associated with a negative impact on health. These two facets are critical in managing our overall health and how effectively we perform in a specific role, regardless of our position in the organization.

Self-awareness is critical for growth as an executive leader. The willingness to acknowledge areas we must improve and grow is imperative in personal and professional development. Neuroticism, defined as the ability to deal with stress and setbacks in a resilient or reactive way, and conscientiousness are two traits we assess and measure that impact one’s ability to be self-aware. We must focus on this because it directly affects the ability to recognize shortfalls and improve performance as a leader.

Of the five traits, it is undeniable that neuroticism is dually and equally important in both professional and personal life. Resilient beings are typically calm and self-assured. They rebound quickly after setbacks or criticism. They are confident in their ability to cope with crises and tend to focus on solutions rather than issues. On the flip side, people who score toward the reactive side of the scale tend to act emotionally and worry continuously, focussing more on issues rather than solutions. In addition, they tend to take criticism personally, reacting with outward irritation and emotion. As a result, self-doubt in their abilities occurs when problems arise, shaking their self-confidence and taking some time to get back on track.

When conducting my assessment debrief, I pay close attention to where the candidate falls on this scale. I assist the candidate in defining where they fall within these traits and coach them on their self-awareness of both positive and negative emotions as an executive affecting their professional maturity.

Another of the five traits leading to an executive’s success refers to the level of focus of an individual, which is known as conscientiousness. This category has five sub-facets: perfectionism, organization, drive, concentration, and methodicalness.

People with low conscientiousness tend to have little care for details and switch their attention easily between different tasks, accepting results containing imperfections. However, people with high conscientiousness plan and structure with foresight and attention to detail, setting challenging and ambitious goals for themselves.

Assessments coupled with performance coaching are shown to improve how one deals with stress, and becomes more organized and focused, on understanding an individual’s inherent behavior traits pertaining to leadership. Assessing talent is only the tip of the iceberg in how organizations can utilize powerful assessment tools to identify an executive’s potential for new roles and retainment for healthy and productive for years to come. As a coach, my goal is to identify and leverage data on certain behaviors in executives to maintain long-term happiness, health, and productivity.

What is your experience with assessments and psychometric tools to enhance self-awareness and improve performance?