4 steps to develop greater situational awareness and increasing strategic-ness

Last week, I was asked how to help someone develop greater situational awareness if he was a person who is led by his emotions and acts on them with full conviction. While it is not a difficult question to answer, it was made all the more difficult when the person about whom we were speaking was a party to the discussion! However, when dealing with personal development, the first thing we need to do is be consistent; and if the person needs to hear this, it is best he hears it in an unadulterated manner, and first-hand. So here was my response…

1. Pull yourself away from the situation

If the situation is making one react emotionally, then it is important to pull oneself out of that situation. If he could excuse himself to move to a quieter place to regroup, then he should do that. If he cannot physically move away, then he should at least mentally move away. To do that, simply block out the emotion and maintain a mental zone of peace. The last thing the person needs is to reinforce the emotional state, thereby causing him to make a bad decision. Defer all decision making until one has regained composure and has the ability to separate emotion from fact.

2. Seek to understand

There are two levels of understanding; the first one is about oneself, and the next one is about the other stakeholders. In seeking to understand oneself, we ask ourselves what it is that we wanted; what our strategic intent was all about. Is it to be self-righteous, or is it to be heard, or is it about staying within your own comfort-zone?

Next is to understand the intents of the other parties to the situation. What are they interested in? What do they want to achieve? Is what they are doing aligned with their intent? Obviously this entails one to ask the stakeholders these questions and this opens up a dialogue. In making the dialogue work, of course, all parties need to be open to listening to each other, even if it was not easy listening. Again the whole point here is to seek to understand.

3. Identify the constraints

All situations are bounded by constraints and sometimes it is within these constraints that the stakeholders are acting. And these actions may sometimes be counterintuitive or counter-personality. Understanding this allows one to look outside the person and onto the situation. It also frames the discussions and ultimately, the decision.

4. Look back to look forward

I didn’t get the chance to talk about this last point in that conversation but I would like to add this in this article. Thinking in time allows us to see how we got to where we are and what actions we need to take to get we want to be. This action of FutureBack is important to moderate past behaviours, especially if what we have been doing is not helping us get to where we want to be. So as we uncover what we did, or failed to do, that brought us to where we were now, we can also see what we now needed to do to move us to where we wanted to be.

Four not-so-easy steps

So there we are, four steps to develop greater situational awareness. While they were easy for me to write it in this article, it is much more difficult to implement, especially if one had to “die to oneself” before he could take this on. But, as they say, all change starts with self-awareness. If we are aware of our need for change, then we can take it on to make it happen. If we cannot see the log in our eyes, then how much more difficult to see the speck in others’ eyes? But if one adopts the attitude of self-renewal and of increasing betterment, then, these four steps can be taken with a slight spring in our strides.

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