Why Knowing Yourself Is Everything and How To Do It

If your understanding of yourself is not strong, you are doomed to interact far less effectively with family, friends and colleagues.

And yet, to see within oneself is one of the greater challenges in life. So, how might you see yourself as others do?

For me it’s so much easier to look at someone else and make insightful observations. I’m sure it’s the same for most of us. Often we can read who people are, their skills, strengths, weaknesses, needs and goals. And yet, we’re slow to look in the mirror and make those same ready assessments of ourselves. Often we are our own greatest mysteries.

Yet it can be easy to break through and get on track. Fortunately, we often see the best example of how to proceed clearly visible in the workplace.

Whenever I see a company investing in a new or even experienced manager, their training and development invariably begins with a class in understanding management styles. The obvious place to start, even if you are going it alone with your own, proactive self-development!

Basically, exposure to this insight provides you an introduction to recognizing your own personality traits and the diverse range of other types of personalities and styles you can encounter in the workplace. Understanding yourself and how you relate to others is fundamental to self-development. It is the base from which we can evolve into the future.

So how do we get this insight? Let me provide a summary of this learning process. Here’s the outline of the program you should look for:

Sometimes relevant learning materials have different titles (such as interpersonal relationships, interpersonal communications, managing diverse personality types, or variations, thereof), but under any name they will show you how to categorize different personality types and better understand how to work with their diversity. For our purposes here we will call this subject, understanding your management style.

Having skill in this area is not only fundamental to a successful management career, but to everyone in any walk-of-life. Much of the information available on the subject is not usually ideally self-administered by reading books. In fact my personal experience suggests that established and aspiring managers and self-developers are best advised to attend courses on the subject to best learn and practice the skill.

There are online facilities that allow you to get a profile of your personality type; some even help identify and analyze problem characters with whom you work. This is a great beginning, but my own experience shows that dedicated time set aside to reflect on your own management/personal style and study the range of other types with professional guidance, will normally secure a more profound lifelong grasp of the subject area. So, what’s involved in upgrading your skill in this area?

Typically, any training begins by:

  • Completing forms and Questionnaires. The first step is usually for you to fill out an extensive evaluation which enables the scientific analysis of your style and behaviors. Usually, several colleagues (most typically 4) also contribute to the process by completing questionnaires about observations and interactions they have had with you. Often you will additionally submit a review of your interactions with “a problem person” (this will come up later).

After all this information is analyzed you are off to a training class where you:

  • Review the results. This is self-explanatory. A large number of people have made exhaustive investments in characterizing the diverse management styles of people. You will be introduced to all the types your particular expert categorizes and told which one you are. Important note: no type is bad, rather they’re all different and generally exhibit different strengths and weaknesses. Having good skill, or versatility in working with these different styles, reflects your expertise!
  • Understand your own management style. Now you have a defined (or codified) style you can spend time studying its traits and tendencies. As a result, your self-awareness of strengths and weaknesses are inevitably improved!
  • Understand the variety of other personality types. Next, you learn the details of the various personality styles you can expect to encounter in the workplace. At this point, you are keenly aware of the amazing diversity and needs of the people with whom you will work during your career. This knowledge is often excitingly enlightening and invariably surprising!
  • Review how your style relates to others. Once you’ve identified your own style and the diversity in others you can explore how to adapt your behavior to best communicate with these different types. You will learn how to modify your behavior and better relate to the style and needs of others. Again, your flexibility in adapting to and communicating with colleagues will be key to your development as a manager and a person.
  • Work on a problem or example case. I mentioned (above) that many courses want you to submit an example of a problem interpersonal relationship you have currently. At this point you’re typically given the characterization of this person’s style and can use this as a working example for practicing the skills you have now studied and developed. If nothing else, you can walk away with an improved knowledge of how to deal with this particular individual.

That’s about it! Much is to be learned from such a course and it is typically a great investment of anyone’s time. I see many people go to such classes, all of which follow much the same basic outline described above. Never once have I heard attendees complain that it was a waste of their time. On the contrary, they usually sing the praises of the investment they’ve made and speak proudly of their improved awareness.

Are you well skilled in this area? Do you understand your management style and how it relates to others? Clearly, the benefits to your general self-improvement and professional career are obvious.

Have you ever attended such a course or reviewed related material? If not, I recommend you make the investment and enjoy the huge advantage of understanding you own basic style; become that stronger communicator, better able to relate to others and get results!


Ian R Mackintosh is the founder and president of OCP-IP and a published author. His BIO can be found here.  Follow Ian @IanRMackintosh


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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