How self-aware are you as an entrepreneur? What can you do to improve the leadership skills you need to succeed in your business or organization?

I am constantly reminded of the deep connection between self-awareness and successful entrepreneurship. By practicing self-awareness you can refine your business practice at the most micro level.

Paying attention to the nuances in your style and tactics can be the difference between botching it and maximizing your effectiveness. Here are three instances where you can practice self-awareness and flex that muscle in your brain that helps you pay attention to what you are REALLY doing in your business:

1. Listening

Listening, and I mean, truly listening is a stretch goal for many entrepreneurs looking to enhance their leadership capabilities. This means putting the product (and your ego) aside to listen FIRST to your potential clients or customers before boasting your great offering.

“Too often, in planning our communications, we focus on what we want to say rather than on whom the communication is directed.” Listening can help you identify new market opportunities and new ideas for your product and service.

So rather than jumping in with a solution to a common problem, listen to their unique concerns first. Chances are you can genuinely help them! At the same time, listening is a valuable opportunity to gain insights on how to refine your business.

Self-awareness tip! The art of listening to others also includes the art of listening to self. So keep a journal and ask yourself: Was I a good listener today? Did I miss out on an opportunity to listen? Was I truly present?

2. Feedback

As a listener you are absorbing feedback. Perhaps you will learn about a new need or how your services can be improved. Feedback can come to you in a very subtle form (through silence) or more robustly (loud complaints or praise). We all get feedback!

The trick for the self-aware entrepreneur though is to embrace, understand, and then to take action on the feedback provided.

Embrace it! It might be helpful to remember that feedback is never personal and should be embraced. If you are a ‘solo-preneur’ this might be a difficult concept. After all, you ARE your business. However, if you can separate yourself from your business entity, you can act as an objective observer and embrace the feedback as a gift.

Understand it! Understanding the subtle or loud signs is about making sense of the feedback in a larger context. Many leadership experts call this “meaning making.” Listen to the feedback in the stories your clients are telling.

Take Action! Taking action is a tricky one. This is where, as an entrepreneur, you need to decide what action to take in response to the feedback. Remember here, that a small change can make a huge difference.

Self-awareness tip! If you are not sure what do change, do more research and self-reflect on your interaction with your clients or customers more broadly.

3. Communication

If you can listen to your clients, embrace the feedback and understand their needs, you will likely better communicate your offering in a way that resonates with them.

Mark Joyner in the Irresistible Offer breaks down some stylistic elements as valuable clues on how to communicate your product or service offering. These include clarity, simplicity, brevity and immediacy.

Clarity! Instead of leaving your offering to interpretation, deliver a crisp message that resonates with your client’s needs.

Simplicity! Keep your communication simple and understandable. Often this means communicating the wisdom in the solution to their problems and not the complex and complicated panacea.

Brevity and immediacy! Keep your offering really short and craft your offer in response to their immediate needs.

Self-awareness tip! Self-awareness is a key leadership skill. So, to improve your self-awareness, flex that brain muscle by integrating a “trial and error” attitude. Keep a journal on your successes and challenges and refine your listening and communication style accordingly.

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1. Warren Bennis & Joan Goldsmith, Learning to Lead: A workbook on becoming a leader, 4th Ed. (2010)
2. Mark Joyner, The Irresistible Offer: How to Sell Your Product or Service in 3 Seconds or Less, (2005)

Author's Bio: 

Committed to personal development and life-course learning Fresh Dreams (www.freshdreams.ca) takes a holistic approach in leadership development and personal and professional growth. The Owner and principle Coach, Jennifer Cottes is sensitive to the complexity and changes in the world and understands the needs of today's professionals and entrepreneurs.

She encourages leadership development, entrepreneurship, and management practices to address social fragmentation that is evident in organizations, community and society. She helps her clients respond positively to changes in the external environment, labour market adjustment, career transitions, mobility, and time crunch pressures. Jennifer spent the majority of her career working on labour market, social policy, and sustainable livelihood development locally and abroad which largely influences her coaching practice.