Awareness is the knowledge or perceived understanding of a situation or fact. Recently, while studying the art of negotiation I came across a case for the concept of awareness. Introspecting, I realized that throughout my career as a consultant, business owner, and an agile coach – awareness has played a crucial role in helping me train, coach, and lead while building strong fulfilling relationships.
As a concept, awareness, is not new. It is not owned by a certain discipline such as negotiation, conflict resolution, etc., instead it is apparent across multiple disciplines. For instance, those practicing mindfulness or meditation would also recognize awareness as the idea of samprajanya. Personally, I have found awareness profoundly useful not just as a coach but as a human being.
In the world of agile where functional silos are replaced by cross-functional teams and the contract game is replaced by the cooperative game, an awareness becomes paramount to a team’s development. Awareness across the dimensions of self, others, and of the larger context within which an interaction unfolds allows an individual to navigate the complex nature of daily interactions and build trust within the team. This in turn, has a direct impact on the performance and throughput of the team.
Awareness of self is where an individual focuses internally within oneself to become better attuned to his/her way of thinking, feeling, and being. This inner awareness addresses the cognitive, emotional, and physiological dimensions. What lens, ideological standpoint, assumptions, biases, or thought process do I leverage to process the information that I receive? How do I perceive, understand, regulate, and adapt my emotional self in response to the information received? How do my spacial relations and physical sensations affect my thought process?
Awareness of other is where an individual focuses on practices that help him/her become better attuned to those involved in the interaction. An inquiry through critical insight, empathy, and proprioception help strengthen this form of awareness. How open and curious am I to understand on my counterpart’s lens, values, belief, and ways to make sense of the current context? How ‘present’ can I be to understand and relate to the emotional dimensions of my audience? How attune am I to the quality of physical presence of my counterpart in relation to me (e.g. is my body language being perceived as aggressive)?
Awareness of context is where an individual focuses on the environment of the interaction itself. These include conditions such as the physical space within which the interaction takes place, the roles and relationships involved (including power relationships), and the cultural and ideological perspectives that surround the situation (including customary practices and norms).
Taken together an agilist’s deeper awareness of self, others, and context enable deeper meaningful dialogue between team members, reinforces the cooperative mindset, and eventually results in a quality product delivered. Through my journey, I have come to the understanding that in order to be successful as an agile coach, one must be a reflective learner and an adaptive practitioner adept at the multiple strategies, styles, tactics, and skills to help unlock the team’s potential. Awareness is just one of the many skills that strengthen the adaptive muscle.
Alexander, Nadja, Jill Howieson, and Kenneth Fox. Negotiation. 3rd ed. LexisNexis Butterworths, 2015. Print.
Williams, Mark Alexander. The 10 Lenses. 1st ed. Sterling, Va.: Capital Books, 2001. Print.
Cunliffe, A. L. "Reflexive Dialogical Practice In Management Learning". Management Learning 33.1 (2002): 35-61. Web. 3 June 2017.